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Posted by Curly on October 07, 2010 at 01:08:07:

Doug Moe: Documentary on POW/MIA bracelet program features Madison family

By Doug Moe | Posted to Madison.com: Saturday, October 2, 2010 2:13 pm


On the afternoon of Jan. 14, 1968, a car pulled into the driveway of Stanley and Gerry Horne's Madison home, and three men in uniform got out.

Gerry saw them out the window. She turned to her oldest son, Jeff, who was 11, and said, "Jeff, take the kids in the bedroom."

The news delivered that day was that Gerry's husband, career U.S. Air Force Col. Stanley Horne, 41, was missing after ejecting from his plane while flying a combat mission over North Vietnam.

For most of the 22 years that followed, Gerry Horne wore a metal bracelet engraved with her husband's name and the date of his disappearance. The POW/MIA bracelet program was launched on Veterans Day 1970. Millions were distributed, many to individuals who didn't personally know those missing. Gerry Horne corresponded with strangers who wore her husband's bracelet, keeping a stack of their letters in her home.

In 1990, 22 years after Stanley Horne was reported missing, his remains were returned to the United States, and he was buried at Roselawn Memorial Park in Monona.

Referring to the bracelet, Gerry Horne told a State Journal reporter at the time, "I may have to take it off now. It's been such a part of me, but it is final and we have to put it to rest."

Another two decades have passed, and now Dave Berner, a Chicago broadcast journalist and university teacher, has just finished a radio documentary on the POW/MIA bracelets, using the Horne family's experience as the centerpiece.

Berner's journey to the Hornes in Madison began with a Chicago radio program six years ago.

Berner a former WMAQ radio reporter who today teaches at Columbia College was in his car listening to the "Kathy & Judy" show on WGN radio. The topic was things you can't throw away.

A woman called to say that she had a POW/MIA bracelet from the Vietnam era in her jewelry box and that she couldn't, or wouldn't, part with it.

"That started a flood of calls," Berner was recalling this week. "The whole show shifted."

Later, Berner who specialized in human interest features while at WMAQ contacted the show's producer at WGN. He was already formulating the idea that the bracelets still stirring great emotion after all these years could make a compelling documentary. But he needed to put a face on them. By telling the story of one POW/MIA, Berner thought, he could effectively tell them all.

"And I found the Hornes in Madison," Berner said.

The producer at WGN had put Berner in touch with Deanna Horne, the wife of Jeff Horne, the oldest of Stanley and Gerry's four children. Jeff and Deanna live in Gurnee, Ill. (Gerry still lives in the Madison area) and Deanna had heard people talking about the bracelet discussion on WGN.

Deanna had recently been in contact on the Internet with a woman who for years had worn Stanley Horne's bracelet. She called WGN, and eventually connected with Berner, who talked about his hopes for a documentary. The Horne family agreed to cooperate.

Berner's documentary, which he hopes to have posted on PRX (Public Radio Exchange) where it can be picked up by public stations across the country as early as this week, tells the story of the bracelets, and the story of the Hornes.

The bracelet program will have its 40th anniversary on Nov. 11. It was launched by a Los Angeles-based student organization called Voices in Vital America to draw attention to those imprisoned or missing in action in Vietnam.

For his documentary, Berner was granted access by the family to audio tapes Stanley sent back from Vietnam before his plane went down. Berner interviewed the Hornes, as well as others around the country who wore Stanley Horne's bracelet.

One of Berner's most memorable interviews was with Earl Henderson, a member of Horne's squadron who was on the mission and witnessed Horne eject from his plane.

Actually, Henderson couldn't be certain which of his mates had ejected until they returned to base and Horne was missing. Henderson, too, wore a bracelet.



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