The story began in 1970. Jeannette Kronick, now a resident of North Bergen, was living and working in Manhattan as an executive with Trans World Airlines. With the Vietnam War dominating the headlines daily, capturing everyone's thoughts and prayers, Kronick couldn't help noticing a group of people who were selling commemorative bracelets honoring the United States military people who were either classified as Missing in Action or Prisoners of War in Vietnam.
"At the time, there was really no attempt of trying to bring the POWs back home," Kronick recalled. "I saw this organization, the League of Families, selling these copper bracelets. I did nothing more than plunk down my dollar, reach into a box and pull up a bracelet."
The name on the bracelet read Major Kenneth Cordier of the U.S. Air Force.
"It simply said the date that he was declared missing in action, which was Dec. 2, 1966," Kronick said. "At the time, I didn't know he was a POW. It was not known if he was dead or alive. It just said that he was missing."
Maj. Kenneth Cordier had been flying over North Vietnam on Dec. 2, 1966 when his plane was shot down. He bailed out of his plane at 24,000 feet, suffering significant burns as he jumped through a fireball. When he landed, he was immediately captured by the Vietnamese and held as a prisoner of war for almost seven years.
"It was six years and three months," Cordier said in a telephone interview from his home in Dallas. "POWs are always careful not to exaggerate."
While held in Hanoi, first in a horrific jail cell then in the complex that became famous as the "Hanoi Hilton," Cordier said that he endured his share of torture and anguish.
"We all were," Cordier said. "It was the standard treatment. The first few years, we were held in two and three-man cells. But after the raid in November of 1970, 350 POWs were moved to the Hanoi Hilton."
Back in New York, Kronick continued to wear the copper band that bore Cordier's name, still unaware of his status.
"In 1972, the first time I ever went out with my husband [David Kronick, a former state assemblyman who had served in the Army during the Korean War], he noticed the bracelet," Jeannette Kronick said. "He was impressed by it. I wore it for a while, but I knew that if I kept squeezing it tighter, it would snap. So after a while, I put in it my jewelry box with the rest of my jewelry. I kept it there for safe keeping."
At the time, Kronick made a vow.
"I always said that one day, I was going to give this bracelet to this man, God willing, if he came back home," Kronick said. "And if he was no longer with us, then I was going to give it to his family. Someone was going to know that there was someone who cared for this man, even though we never met."
Returned a hero In March, 1973, Cordier was released. He returned home to his native Ohio as a decorated hero.
"I didn't think much of being a hero at the time," Cordier said. "We were all so very well received, until Watergate popped up. We got a lot of attention. I was just glad and very fortunate to come home. I don't know the real statistics, but I've been told that three out of four POWs didn't come back. I'm absolutely grateful, but those memories never go away."
Kronick didn't know Cordier was home.
"When the Vietnam Memorial was built, I went there to look for his name," Kronick said. "My blood ran cold. I was so nervous. But his name wasn't there. When I didn't see his name, I figured he had to be alive. But I still didn't know."
Kronick said that she spoke with some veterans' organizations, but they said that a lot of their records had been destroyed in a fire 20 years ago.
"Every now and then, the thought of Kenneth Cordier came up," Kronick said. "And then I would take another shot of trying to find him. It went on for 30 years. People made suggestions, but I really couldn't zero in on him."
Kronick stopped trying for a while.
Until Army Private First Class Jessica Lynch was captured and taken prisoner in recent war in Iraq. When Kronick saw the news about Lynch, her thoughts returned to Cordier.
"Then, the most remarkable thing happened," Kronick said. "I found him on the Internet. Jessica Lynch just kickstarted the motor again and I found him just like that."
Kronick went to an Internet search engine and punched in Cordier's name. Sure enough, his biography appeared. "I figured that it couldn't be that easy, after all this time," Kronick said.
It said that Cordier had been promoted to the rank of colonel. The biography also stated that he returned to serve in the Air Force for another 12 years after his release. It also said that Cordier was living in Dallas with his wife, Barbie.
At first, Kronick didn't know what to do. She found his address and telephone number, but was reluctant to call. "After all this time, I was aware of him, but he had no idea who I was," Kronick said. "I just didn't want to call his home. I didn't know if he would welcome the call."
So Kronick had her husband call Cordier.
'I hadn't received any in years' "I thought it was great," said Cordier, who had been contacted by several people over the years who had worn his name on a bracelet. "Over the years, I received about 100 or so. But most of those I received in 1973 when I got back home. I hadn't received any in years."
Kronick then told Cordier of her plans.
"I told him that I was going to get on a plane and give him the bracelet," Kronick said. "I told him that it was something I had to do."
"I was thrilled," Cordier said. "I said, 'That's great, by all means, come down.'"
There were two other eerie coincidences. For one, Kronick had been born in Dallas and lived there until she was a teenager.
Secondly, Cordier was going to be interviewed by News Channel 4 in New York by anchorwoman Sue Simmons, on the same day that Kronick finally reached Cordier. The former POW was planning to speak to Simmons about the Jessica Lynch case.
"I asked Jeannette if she could tape the interview for me, because I didn't know anyone up in New York," Cordier said.
"That's more than karma," Kronick said. "When he told me he lived in Dallas, that was icing on the cake. How this happened so rapidly after all this time is really amazing."
Last Wednesday, Kronick boarded a plane and went to her native state to meet the Air Force pilot that she's known for three decades, but had never met. Cordier met Kronick at the Dallas airport. The two embraced like long-lost buddies.
Soon after, Kronick just unceremoniously presented the bracelet to Cordier.
"I just took it off my wrist and put it on his," Kronick said. "That's exactly what I wanted to do. It was just the two of us. I did it while he was driving."
"It was just really neat," Cordier said. "I didn't realize what she was doing, but she put it on my wrist right away. No sooner had we said, 'Hello,' then she put it on my wrist. I've been presented with the bracelets before, but no one ever jumped on a plane to hand it to me."
Kronick and Cordier spent the day together, driving around Dallas. Cordier took Kronick to her old neighborhood where she'd gone to grade school. They had lunch together and shared stories of their lives before Kronick jumped back on a plane that same day and returned home to North Bergen.
"It was just incredible," Cordier said. "My wife says that there are no coincidences in this world, that everything is meant to be. She said that she wanted to present the bracelet to either me or my family. I'm sure glad it was me."
Cordier said that this bracelet will go in a special place on his mantle, next to a brick he'd brought home from the Hanoi Hilton.
"I have a few bracelets, but this one will get special attention," Cordier said.
Cordier, now retired from the Air Force, spent several years working with the U.S. Department of Defense, before becoming a sales consultant for his wife, who is a regional director for Mary Kay Cosmetics.
"I work for her," Cordier said. "Barbie's the boss."
Will be on CNN Monday Kronick said that her story will be featured on CNN's "American Morning" show with Paula Zahn Monday - which is Memorial Day, such a fitting day for a warm saga with a happy ending.
"The timing is pretty good," Kronick said. "I'm hoping that if people still have these bracelets, that they can unearth it. Maybe it's in a box or a drawer somewhere, or in a garage some place. But maybe they can find it and make the effort to contact that POW like I did. You have no idea how much it means, not just to the person whose name appeared on the bracelet, but to other veterans."
Added Kronick, "You would really think that I was doing it for them as well, but the story is very personal to them. I didn't know it would mean that much. Maybe if they make the effort, then they could be as fortunate as I've been and find the MIA alive and well."
As well being lucky enough to have a new lifelong friend.
"After 30 years, how could we not be friends?" Kronick said.
"We're friends forever," Cordier said.