COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For years, Pam Williams wore his name on a silver metal band around her wrist.
The name of Col. Jack Van Loan, a Vietnam War Air Force pilot who'd been shot down and taken prisoner by the enemy in 1967. Van Loan ended up spending six years in a Hanoi prison, shackled, beaten and tortured.
Williams, who lives in Gallatin, TN, was a high school student when she bought the bracelet after seeing a newspaper ad around 1971. She says she eventually took off the bracelet and put it away after the war ended.
But recently Williams came across the band in her jewelry case and wanted to find out what had happened to Van Loan.
After posting a message on Facebook, she began to collect information about Van Loan, who had been released from the prison in 1973 and had become a successful businessman in Columbia.
On Friday, as the city held its annual Veterans Day parade, Col. Van Loan served as Grand Marshal. And Williams traveled to Columbia, where she met for the first time with the man she calls "my hero."
"I cannot believe these brave men and women and what all they do for our country," she said, pausing to collect her emotions. "This was such a small thing that I could do."
Van Loan says he was moved by Williams' gesture.
"That is an illustration that the Vietnamese never understood, the power of those bracelets," he says.
Van Loan says he is "honored beyond belief" by being named the event's Grand Marshal.