This memorial to retired Air Force Maj. Wesley Schierman was put up by neighbors outside his home in Everett’s Silver Lake area after Schierman died in Everett in 2014.

This memorial to retired Air Force Maj. Wesley Schierman was put up by neighbors outside his home in Everett’s Silver Lake area after Schierman died in Everett in 2014.

Simple silver bracelet linked Americans with imprisoned countrymen

It was the early 1970s. The Vietnam War raged on, claiming tens of thousands of American lives and tugging at the nation’s psyche. At Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Virginia, Pamela Tollberg was dating Robert Snow.

The war so dominated the culture that Pamela’s boyfriend gave her a POW/MIA bracelet.

“It happened to be the first gift he gave me,” she said when she called last week from Manassas.

She is now Pamela Snow, a 58-year-old retired teacher. And yes, she married that high school boyfriend. They are now downsizing, which is how she came across the silvery bracelet she wore as a teenager.

After a recent visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the somber site in Washington, D.C., known simply as “The Wall,” Snow used Google to look up the name on her bracelet. It’s engraved with: “Maj. Wesley Schierman 8-28-65.”

What she found, in a Herald story, was that Schierman died in Everett on Jan. 4, 2014. A retired Northwest Airlines pilot, he was 78 years old.

From the Herald article, published Jan. 8, 2014, Snow learned that Air Force Maj. Schierman was a 30-year-old husband and father when he was shot down in his F-105 fighter-bomber about 100 miles west of Hanoi in North Vietnam.

It was Aug. 28, 1965, and he was on his 37th combat mission. That day began nearly eight years of hellish captivity. He was one of more than 500 prisoners of war in North Vietnam. In 1999, he told The Herald that he experienced torture and his weight dropped to under 100 pounds.

It was a joyous day Feb. 12, 1973, when Schierman and other POWs were freed.

His son, Steve Schierman, 54, said Friday that his father was listed as missing in action until 1971. “We didn’t even know he was alive,” said Steve Schierman, an Alaska Airlines pilot who lives in Puyallup.

Steve Schierman was too young to have many memories when his father went to war. He was almost 11 when his dad was freed. He will never forget it. With his mother and sister, Sandra, they lived in Spokane at the time.

“We flew down to Travis Air Force Base on a C-141 from McChord. We had talked to him prior to that when he hit the Philippines. We flew to Travis and spent two weeks with him there,” Steve Schierman said.

A younger sister, Stacy Schierman, was born after Wesley Schierman was freed. She is a pilot for SkyWest Airlines.

Steve Schierman said his father sometimes talked about his time as a captive. Although his dad was tortured and spent 17 months in solitary confinement, “he had a lot of humor,” the Puyallup man said. “He would forget the bad and remember the good.”

I contacted the Schiermans to let them know about Snow’s bracelet and how to contact her. She hopes to give it to the family. “I wore this bracelet nonstop for years and years,” Snow said.

Across the country, millions of Americans wore the bracelets, which were inscribed with a name, rank and date of loss. The idea for the POW/MIA bracelets was conceived by several California college students. “On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 1970, we officially kicked off the bracelet program,” wrote Carol Bates Brown, one of the founders, in a history of the bracelets on the Vietnam memorial website.

They were sold for $2.50 to $3 through a Los Angeles student group called VIVA (Voices in Vital America). In all, more than 5 million bracelets were distributed.

“Everybody wore them. I can’t remember when I stopped,” Snow said. She had a second bracelet with the name of Bruce Seeber, captured in North Vietnam on Oct. 5, 1965. Now a retired Air Force colonel, Seeber lives in Louisiana. Snow said she has been in touch with Seeber via Facebook.

At 79, Wesley Schierman’s widow still lives in the home they shared near Everett’s Silver Lake.

Faye Schierman said Friday that people still send her bracelets with her husband’s name. “I received one about three weeks ago,” she said.

Regardless of how Americans felt about the politics of war in Vietnam, “those who signed on that dotted line to protect their country were putting their life on the line,” Faye Schierman said.

Some have called to tell her they don’t want to part with a bracelet that meant so much.

“It is an emotional thing,” Faye Schierman said. “After all these years, people still feel the effects of the war. Sometimes they call and we just cry.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

Talk to us

More in Local News

“We are still trying to figure out what to do with him,” said Everett Police Department property crimes Det. Adam Gage, who transports the statue back to a room using a rolling chair on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in Everett, Washington.The Batman statue was recovered after it was stolen from an Everett comic book store last year.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Batman returns! Stolen Funko statue is in police custody

The supersized bobblehead was taken from Everett Comics in an October “smash-and-grab.”

Eric Adler, the mystery man who is on Twitter as @EdmondsScanner (E. Wong)
Revealed: The mystery man behind the @EdmondsScanner tweets

He’s a 50-year-old mail carrier who dusted off his English degree to curate 6,000 tales on Twitter.

Father who fled state with 3 sons arrested in New Mexico

Richard Burke reportedly didn’t trust masks or vaccines. He was charged with custodial interference.

Brian Baird, a former congressman who lives in Edmonds, hopes to create a National Museum and Center for Service in Washington, D.C. (contributed photo)
‘The time is right’ to honor helpers, says former congressman

Brian Baird, of Edmonds, is working to establish a National Museum and Center for Service in D.C.

Man identified in fatal Mill Creek crash

Ian Jensen, 32, died after a multi-vehicle accident Saturday on 35th Avenue SE.

Package funding U.S. 2 trestle, Monroe bypass on the move

A $17.8 billion plan dealing with highways, ferries and transit has cleared the state Senate transportation panel.

Explosion shatters Everett apartment complex windows

Police were called to the Monte Cristo apartment complex, 2929 Hoyt Ave., Tuesday night.

Looking east toward the U.S. 2 trestle as cars begin to backup on Thursday, March 1, 2018 in Everett, Wa. The aging westbound span needs replacing and local politicians are looking to federal dollars to get the replacement started. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
U.S. 2 trestle rebuild part of Senate transportation package

Time is short to get the $17.8 billion plan passed. Its link to climate change bills adds intrigue.

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman looks up at a video monitor in a hallway as he arrives for a session of Thurston County Superior Court, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Olympia, Wash. Eyman, who ran initiative campaigns across Washington for decades, will no longer be allowed to have any financial control over political committees, under a ruling from Superior Court Judge James Dixon Wednesday that blasted Eyman for using donor's contributions to line his own pocket. Eyman was also told to pay more than $2.5 million in penalties. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ouch: Judge orders Tim Eyman to pay state’s $2.9M legal tab

In February, a judge found that the serial initiative promoter repeatedly violated campaign finance laws.

Most Read