Neil Stanley Bynum

United States Air Force
29 June 1943 - 13 May 1976
Vian, Oklahoma
Panel 17W Line 119

USAF Pilot

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
Neil Bynum getting into an F4

The database page for Neil Stanley Bynum

15 Dec 1999


by one who wears his MIA bracelet.


13 Nov 2002

I was honored to receive a Vietnam POW bracelet when I was in grade school in 1969. I wore the bracelet religiously and was saddened to see that the man on my bracelet was not among those released in 1973. I was cleaning out an area of my parents' home after my mother's death in 1998 and found the bracelet for the first time in over 20 years. Being an active duty Air Force Lieutenant Colonel at the time, I decided to try and find the family and return the bracelet. I did find the family via military records and posted this letter to Capt Bynum's mother:

Dear Mrs. Bynum,

Enclosed is the bracelet bearing your son’s name. Be careful with it because after all these years it’s brittle and has a crack in it (if you look on the inside back you can see the crack). If anyone tries to slip it on their arm, I fear it will break.

You can’t imagine what a thrill it was for me to talk to you the other day after so many years of wondering about the man on my bracelet. I’m sorry it took me this long to get this to you but please accept the bracelet from someone who has thought and prayed for your son over the past 30 years. I was cleaning out some old boxes for a garage sale and came across a box full of mementos from my boyhood. Among these things was the bracelet I received when I was 10 years old bearing your son’s name. I had always wanted to return it to the family and get a sense of closure for myself after all these years. Let me tell you how the Vietnam War effected me and why the bracelet meant so much to me.

My father was an Air Force officer who spent two tours in Vietnam and I blame that war for stealing my childhood. When my father was in Vietnam, my mother, my two brothers, and sister lived at Hickam AFB in Honolulu, Hawaii. During this time, Honolulu was a very busy center of military activity with sailors and airmen everywhere. We lived in an off-base community almost entirely military overflow families from Hickam and Pearl Harbor. It was a scary time to be a kid. Most of the fathers in the community were in Vietnam or Thailand. Every once in awhile, a big blue sedan with a white roof would drive slowly down the street and pull into a driveway of one of the houses, uniformed men would get out and knock on the door. As soon as the car would leave, all the neighborhood women would descend on the house. Then a few days later a moving van would be there and the family would be gone. My mother finally told me that this meant that someone’s father had been killed in the war. I think I grew from 7 years old to 18 that day. From then on, when I saw the blue sedan coming down the street, I’d get a sick feeling and pray that it wouldn’t stop at our house. All the kids would stop playing and hold their breath. Fortunately, it never did stop at our house, but as it passed, I would always breathe a sigh of relief and run to tell my mother where the car had stopped. She would immediately go to that house to console the family. I lived on that street for four years and worried every minute until my father returned from Thailand. I had many friends who lost their fathers during the war. Through them, I experienced the extreme emotional pain caused by their loss. I cried along with my friends as I tried to comfort them over their loss because that same fear was always in the back of my mind. I can only imagine the pain you must have felt.

I was raised in the Catholic Church and, during this time, my older brother and I would serve as summer altar boys for two Navy Chaplains at Pearl Harbor. One of our duties with these Chaplains was to meet the incoming ships to bless and pray over the caskets of those killed in the war as they were unloaded from the ship. One time in particular, I remember meeting the USS Enterprise, a large aircraft carrier. The Enterprise had a serious accident while launching aircraft of the coast of Vietnam and 502 sailors had died. My older brother and I stood there in our black and white cassocks with the Chaplain as the 502 flag-draped coffins where off-loaded from the ship to the pier. There were hundreds of grieving relatives and other ministers, priests, and rabbi waiting to claim the caskets. Each casket had a number and as the families found their loved one, they held up either a Catholic, Protestant or Jewish flag. We would hurry to the yellow Catholic flags to pray for the family and their loved one before they took the casket away. We visited with 110 families that afternoon. I have never forgotten that and never will.

After Hawaii, we moved to Offutt AFB in Bellevue, Nebraska – just outside Omaha. There I attended a small Catholic School, St. Mary’s. One day, our principal came into our class with two boxes and told us all to select a bracelet from one box and a rosary from the other. I chose my bracelet and the name was “Capt Neil Bynum, 10-26-69”. We were told to pray for the men on our bracelets so they would someday return home to their families. I prayed for your son every day from 1970 until 1976 but even after this period, I never forgot him. I always wanted to know more about him. Well, as you know time moves on. I stopped wearing the bracelet in May 1976 because it developed a crack and I was afraid it would break taking it off and on. I didn’t know until the other day that that was the same timeframe that the government had changed his status – how strange.

In 1973, I remember watching “Operation Homecoming” and the return of POWs from the war. I scanned the list in the newspaper looking for the man on my bracelet but I didn’t see his name. I felt emptiness, like a relative of my own had just died.

Life moved on, I went through High School and then to College. I entered the Air Force after graduation in 1982 and married my high school sweetheart. We vacationed in Washington DC in 1986 and visited the Vietnam Memorial – I remembered to look for Neil and found him. I gave his name a pat and I guess I realized then – he had never returned. I’ve since been stationed at the Pentagon in Washington DC (1996-1999) and had many opportunities to visit the Vietnam Memorial – each time, I made sure I stopped and visited with Neil for a moment.

I really hope this doesn’t stir up unpleasant memories for you. My intention was only to return the bracelet to its rightful owners. I also wanted you to know that there was someone else in the world that felt a sorrow for your son’s loss and, in many ways, it was men like him who inspired me to enter the Air Force and see service to the country as an honorable way to spend a life. So please accept the enclosed bracelet knowing that I’ve thought and prayed often for your son over the last 30 years. May God bless you and bring you back together one day.

Very Sincerely,

Tom Reilly

19 Mar 2003


by his family and friends.

From his niece,
Tiffany Erb

April 13, 2003

I was one of many who wore a bracelet with the name of either a "missing in action" or a "prisoner of war" during the last few years of the war in Vietnam. This weekend while gathering things for a yard sale I found Captain Bynum's bracelet in a jewelry box that belongs to my husband of 32 years.

When I went on the Internet to research Captain Bynum, I found this site and had the pleasure of communicating with his niece, Tiffany. I emailed her that I was feeling very heavy-hearted regarding the prisoners of war in Iraq and felt it was more than just a coincidence that her uncle's bracelet was once more in my hands. I promised to say a prayer for him. Years ago, I had been told never to promise to say a prayer and not do it. It was a thought-provoking comment since we all say things we think we mean, but often don't follow through. Since that comment so long ago I have made every effort to complete my promise of an offered prayer.

However, I have never, ever had a prayer answered so quickly and in such a stunningly miraculous way. In my prayer I had asked Captain Bynum for help with the rescue and/or recovery of the current POWs. This Sunday morning my prayer was answered with the announcement of the seven missing POWs being found along the highway in Iraq ... all seven doing as well as could be expected.

I am so very grateful for all of the men and women who have served in the past, are currently serving now, and will serve our country in the future. I am deeply aware that without their sacrifice I would not have the freedom and life I so enjoy.

Captain Bynum will never be forgotten in my home. My 20-year-old daughter was quite impressed to hear about the bracelet story - she had no idea such a thing had been done. I feel very honored to have worn his bracelet and I know it represents not just his memory, but the memories of all who have given so much for their country.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to express my appreciation.

Miriam Leighton Mettler
E-mail will be forwarded by the

(My father, Robert W. Leighton, served during WWII in the Army's 88th mechanized cavalry reconnaissance squadron as Troop C's C.O. and my brother, Robert D. Leighton, served during the Vietnam war in the Navy on the USS Constellation (CVA-64) as the chaplain's yeoman - needless to say, I am so proud of both of them.)

5 Sep 2004

You provide us with lots of hope and inspiration in troubled times.

Some thirty years later I still retain that hope.

From his MIA bracelet wearer,
Dani Chorost
NYC, NY 10021

18 Mar 2006

About the year 1988 I passed through a small Oklahoma town and saw the name Neil Bynum on a Viet Nam Memorial marker... I wrote his name down in my checkbook. He became an American Hero to me. I searched his name on the internet to learn more about him. In all these years gone by every time I change checkbooks I write his name on the new cover.

I know he is at peace with God..
Judy from Georgia

22 Jun 2006

May you rest in peace with God. We found the bracelet Mom used to wear all the time while she prayed for you. My Mom recently died and you will now be able to meet in heaven.

Anita Smith
E-Mail will be forwarded by the

07 Jun 2007

My name is Angel, and this is dedicated to a wonderful father whom I never had the chance to know. He was shot down when I was only 9 months old. My mom told me that when I was born my father insisted that he got to choose my name. He did choose my name. He named me Angel Alese Bynum. Now he is MY Angel. I carry his heart in mine, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't wish I could hear his voice just one time or give him a hug just one time or have the chance to tell him how much I love him, just one time. This poem is for you, daddy.

In Remembrance

If tears could build a stairway
And memories were a lane
We would walk right up to heaven
And bring you back again

No farewell words were spoken
No time to say goodbye
You were gone before we knew it
And only God knows why

Our hearts still ache in sadness
And secret tears still flow
What it meant to lose you
No one can ever know
- Cynthia J. Mackenzie

From his daughter,
Angel Alese Bynum
8800 Copper Oaks Lane, Fort Smith, Arkansas 72903

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On the night of 25/26 October 1969 Captain Gray D. Warren and 1st Lt Neil S. Bynum launched on a "fast FAC" mission along the area of the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the Ban Karai Pass. Warren and Bynum were assigned to the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon RTAFB and were in F-4D tail number 65-0751, call sign WOLF 05.

During the mission they located construction equipment, including a bulldozer, on a road about 15 miles west of the DMZ, near the village of Ban Son. During the prosecution of the targets, WOLF 05 entered into a low-altitude pass using 5" ZUNI rockets. While the target was hit, WOLF 05 failed to pull up, impacted the ground approximately 100 meters up-slope from the bulldozer, and exploded on impact, scattering wreckage over a large area.

Other FAC aircraft in the area witnessed the impact and initiated search and rescue operations. Although no enemy fire had been encountered before WOLF 05 went in, the SAR forces did receive small arms and 37mm AAA fire. There were no signs of survivors and the SAR effort was terminated after two hours.

Both men were classed as Missing in Action. During an annual review of their status, the review board found no evidence that either man escaped the aircraft and now-Major Gray Warren was reclassified as Killed in Action on 26 Oct 1969, Body not Recovered. 1st Lt Bynum, however, was continued in MIA status until 13 May 1976, when the Secretary of the Air Force approved a Presumptive Finding of Death changing his status to Died while Missing/Body not Recovered.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his niece,
Tiffany Erb

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 15 Dec 1999
Last updated 01/20/2008