JARDINE: Bracelet made for MIA Modesto colonel finds way to family

jjardine@modbee.comSeptember 2, 2013 

Van Vliet

Joann Van Vliet of Escalon raises her bicycle in triumph after completing the Sea to Sea Bike Tour 2013 and August 24 as part of a charity fund raising event staged by the Christian Reformed Church. The ride began in Los Angeles June 21 and ended at Staten Island, NY.

JOANN VAN VLIET — Joann Van Vliet

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textJeff Jardine
    Title: Local columnist
    Coverage areas: People, issues, the community
    Bio: Jeff Jardine joined The Bee's staff in 1988 after a decade at the Stockton Record. He covered sports before moving into news in 1996 and became the Local Columnist in 2003. He graduated from University of the Pacific in 1979, majoring in communications and history.
    Recent stories written by Jeff
    On Twitter: @jeffjardine57
    E-mail: jjardine@modbee.com

From the emails and voice mails:

FOUND IN FLINT — In February 1969, Air Force Col. Stanley Scott Clark's F-4D fighter bomber went down over Laos.

Declared missing in action, neither Clark nor his remains ever have been found. A Bee story in 1984 detailed how Clark's family still held out hope that he was alive 15 years after vanishing. Then, in 1994, Bee reporter Michael Doyle featured Escalon-born Clark in a story about MIAs, talking to those who remembered him as a young boy who grew up on Third Street in Modesto in the 1940s.

During the war, the National League of Families began distributing bracelets — first made of stainless steel, later of copper — that people wore to keep the MIAs in the public eye.

Fast forward to last week. We received an email from Roger Brownell, a resident of Flint, Mich. For years, he's had one of those bracelets. Its etching reads "Col. Stanley Clark 14 Feb 1969 Missing In Action."

"We moved here in 1999," he said. "I think we found it while we were unpacking, but it was one of those things we never got around to doing anything about. It was probably left by the people who lived in this house before us."

He searched Clark's name online and found entries detailing that Clark was MIA and had lived in Modesto. Brownell decided Clark's family should have the bracelet, and contacted The Bee, wondering if any of Clark's family was still in the area.

Within 15 minutes of talking with Brownell, I'd located Clark's daughter, Karen Clark Reed of Stockton.

Like many whose loved ones went missing and never were found, she's never given up hope her father's remains will some day be found and identified. "And we'll finally have some closure," she said.

In the meantime, she's always moved when people ask about her dad or talk about the MIA bracelets.

"I have eight of them now," she said. "There was a guy from 9-11 — a firefighter — who has worn one straight through since my dad disappeared. Lots of teens, in their early 20s, wore them."

In 1994, President Bill Clinton lifted the trade embargo with Vietnam, establishing relations with that nation. It sped up the United States' ability to search for remains and answers in Southeast Asia.

There were 2,238 Americans listed as MIAs that year.

"We're down to about 800 now," said Reed, who recently received a call from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware regarding DNA samples that officials hoped might match with remains and resolve Col. Clark's case. They didn't.

For the time being, connecting with Brownell and hearing about the bracelet honoring her father will have to do.

• • •

CROSS ONE OFF THE BUCKET LIST — After celebrating a birthday last October, Joann Van Vliet chatted with her mom. Mom posed one of those bucket-list questions.

"Mom asked me if there was anything in my life I still wanted to do, since I have had a pretty 'full' life," Van Vliet said.

Her response?

"I mentioned riding my bike across the United States," Van Vliet said.

Of course, her mother thought she was just joking. Think again.

Last weekend, Van Vliet rolled up to the Atlantic Ocean and dipped her front wheel in water, culminating her voyage as a participant in the Sea to Sea Bike Tour 2013.

She was among 80 cyclists who completed the trip (68 others started but didn't finish) in the event sponsored by the Christian Reformed Church as a fund-raiser to combat poverty.

"With the help and support of two cousins (who cycle), a Friend in Tahoe (who cycles) and Fun Sport Bikes in Modesto, I prepared and was supplied all the bike equipment and tools both physically as well as mentally to get ready — with only months before the tour was to start. I always stated that if I was to finish this ride, it would be the Lord's will since I was not a cyclist and was told many times that they didn't think I would be able to do it."

She rode the entire way, though, following a route that took the cyclists into Canada before reaching the Eastern Seaboard.

"I had to raise $10,000," she said. "With the support mainly from family, church family and friends, I raised over $12,000."

To see photos of her trip, check out her blog at http://joannvanvliet.wordpress.com.

• • •

SCOUTING THE SCENERY — Mike Hermosa Jr., a 2002 Turlock graduate, returned to the valley recently to scout sites for a motion picture. Now living in Los Angeles, Hermosa eight months ago completed the script for "Frenzy," a psychological thriller set in Modesto.

There's an interesting Modesto connection here. Hermosa showed his script to native Modestan Britton Hein, now a producer and cinematographer in Hollywood. Hein, in turn, passed it on to actor Mykelti Williamson, best know for his portrayal of Bubba Blue alongside Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump."

Hermosa, Hein and Williamson came to Modesto to meet with Police Chief Galen Carroll and to shoot some footage locally for a film teaser they'll use to entice investors.

Williamson's credentials include 14 episodes on the FX series "Justified." The star of the show? Timothy Olyphant, a former Modestan and 1986 Beyer High graduate.

"Frenzy" is the story of a detective who investigates the murder of another. Inspiration?

Hermosa's father, Mike Sr., retired from the Modesto Police Department as a detective and now is an investigator with the Stanislaus County district attorney's office.

Mike Jr. chose a different career path.

"I joined the Air Force at 18," he said. "I traveled the world, met lots of people, dealt with different cultures."

After mustering out of the military, he moved to L.A., earned his MBA and began dabbling in script writing when an actress asked him to work on a script for her.

Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at jjardine@modbee.com, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.

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