Will met the memory of Major Finney two years ago, when he found a Missing in Action bracelet. (Source: WAFF)
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -
A bracelet with the name of a Marine missing in action for almost 40 years, led a Tennessee Valley teenager to Arlington National Cemetery.
Major Charles E. Finney is a man that 13-year-old Will McKenzie has never met, but someone he's known about for years.
"I know he was born in 1944, but he's from Mississippi and he had a wife and a kid," recalls Will.
Will met the memory of Major Finney two years ago, when he found a Missing in Action bracelet that his dad had bought 20 years ago in Washington, D.C.. Will's dad, Mark McKenzie, said Will put the bracelet on and didn't take it off.
Over time, the bracelet revealed the man, and the mission, that landed Major Finney's name on Will's wrist. "He was on a mission flying, he was a pilot, and he was shot down over Laos," said Will.
Government documents revealed that Major Finney was the bombardier/navigator on board a Gruman A6 Intruder with pilot 1st Lt. Steven R. Armistead when they were shot down on March 17, 1969.
Major Finney was listed as MIA for nearly 40 years. Then, in the mid 1990's, joint US-Laos teams investigated the area near where Major Finney's plane went down. They were able to locate some of the aircraft wreckage, personal effects, and some human remains. All of that would later be used to identify and classify Major Finney as deceased.
In 2000, Major Finney was officially identified and buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Just a few weeks ago, Will was in D.C. and decided to pay a visit to the man who, over the years, he'd learned so much about. "I wanted to find his grave," Will said.
More than 400,000 American heroes are buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Will remembered thinking,"Very sad, I thought, because there were a lot of graves."
Will's eyes finally found Major Finney's tombstone, where he decided to leave the bracelet he'd been wearing for years, and instead, now carries Major Finney in his heart.