Reservist returns POW/MIA bracelet worn in remembrance

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Reservist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, who kept the memory of a fallen Airman alive for almost 20 years has returned the Vietnam warrior’s POW/MIA bracelet to his family after he was finally laid to rest. 

Master Sgt. Sheila Couzins, an intelligence analyst in the 445th Operations Support Squadron, purchased a red aluminum bracelet in 1985 outside the base exchange at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, while attending technical school.

Sergeant Couzins chose the bracelet engraved with Chief Master Sgt. Harold Mullins’ name because he was an enlisted Airman, and he was from Denver. Sergeant Couzins’ father was an enlisted member in the Air Force and retired from Lowry AFB, Colo.

Chief Mullins, a flight engineer assigned to the 4th Air Commando Squadron at Ubon Air Base, Thailand, was aboard an AC-47 Spooky gunship lost on an armed reconnaissance mission over Laos in June 1966.

“Wearing the bracelet started so many conversations. It represented that eventually everyone would be brought home again,” Sergeant Couzins said. “The bracelet was a great ice-breaker because I didn’t just wear it in uniform, I wore it always.”

Though the original bracelet broke nearly 10 years after Sergeant Couzins started wearing it, she continued to carry it in her flight gear. In 1994, her husband presented her with a silver replica, which she pledged to wear until Chief Mullins’ remains had been identified and repatriated.

The wreckage of Chief Mullins’ aircraft was discovered in 1994. Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory workers aided in identifying the remains recovered from the crash site. Eventually, all six people on board the ill-fated AC-47 were identified. They were buried at Arlington Cemetery Nov. 5, 2004, with full military honors.

Sergeant Couzins sent the bracelet to Chief Mullins’ family upon learning that he had been found. Her eyes filled with tears as she said, “I’m very glad I’m able to send it back to his family and that his family will have closure.

“(It is ironic) that I obtained the bracelet just after joining the military and now I’m retiring it as I am set to retire January 25,” Sergeant Couzins said.

She asks people to continue to carry out the tradition and wear POW/MIA remembrance bracelets.

“Public awareness is what keeps the drive going,” the sergeant said. “It’s a great reminder of what we do and the consequences that our actions can have.” «

(Airman Talbert is assigned to the 445th Airlift Wing public affairs office at Wright-Patterson AFB.)

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