ILLINOIS — Anita Renshaw says she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“I said, ‘No, no way,’ and I even went and double-checked the bracelet just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things and sure enough it was Joseph.”
After more than 40 years, the mystery man on her M.I.A. war bracelet was discovered.
“I was so glad that they found him,” says Renshaw.
Smith, an Air Force pilot, went missing after his plane was shot down while flying over Cambodia in 1971. His body was never found. A few years later, Renshaw got a bracelet in his memory at an anti-war rally in St.Louis. She was told to keep it until he was found.
“We went to this one protest and they were giving out M.I.A. bracelets and I happened to get the one of Joseph Smith.”
Until she saw the story of his homecoming while watching WCIA, all she knew of him was his name and the state he was from, Illinois
“I’ve had it all these years and didn’t know what part of Illinois he was from and everyone once in awhile I would go look in this box and do a little prayer that we would find him.”
As the former wife of a Vietnam veteran and the daughter of a World War II veteran, she says it was important to never forget the sacrifice Smith made.
“He was important and I was hoping that someone along the line would find him.”
That wish came true. Monday, just 34 miles from her, Captain Smith was laid to rest in his hometown of Assumption. Hundreds turned out. After learning about him, she says she’s honored to have carried his memory.
“Yeah, I wish I could have known him.”
Capt. Smith was an only child and does not have any immediate living family members. Renshaw says she will return the bracelet to his town. Assumption has a local artifact store where dozens of his belongings are on display.