For 25 years, Curt Nickisch was reminded almost every day that Lt. Paul G. Magers, shot down over Vietnam in 1971, was still missing in action.
Nickisch was in middle school in the mid-1980s when he and his younger sister, Kirsten, sent away for POW/MIA bracelets, issued by various organizations to remember missing soldiers from the Vietnam War.
He and his sister chose to commemorate soldiers from Nebraska because they had recently moved from there to New York. They were Army brats, Nickisch said, which meant that "honoring service and patriotism is something that's around you all the time."
Curt Nickisch was sent a bracelet for Magers, a Billings native whose service address was in Nebraska, where he had married Beverly Mohatt in 1969. His sister received a bracelet for another soldier, who is still officially MIA.
Nickisch wore his bracelet until sometime in high school when it broke, apparently from metal fatigue. After that it sat in a cigar box on his dresser, "where I saw it basically every day when I put my watch on."
Nickisch, the business and technology reporter for WBUR, said he always read every story he saw about MIAs. Two weeks ago, scanning headlines on the Web before work, he saw another MIA story and clicked on it.
"Seeing it was Lt. Magers — it was a shock," he said.
The story said the remains of 1st Lt. Magers and his gunner from Oklahoma had been positively identified and were going to be returned to their families for burial.
He immediately called his sister in Idaho, even though it was 5 a.m. there. Speaking with her, he soon decided he would go to Billings to attend the funeral, and that he would present the MIA bracelet to members of Magers' family.
He did so Thursday night, during a vigil service at the Dahl Funeral Home. Nickisch said he felt a little awkward, since of all the people there he probably had the most distant connection with Magers.
But he got up and spoke briefly, telling how he had acquired the bracelet and thanking Magers' family for his service.
"It surprised me how it touched other people," he said. "Because it was so remote and I still came anyway, I guess it meant a lot."
He presented the battered artifact to Magers' mother, Cecilia Farris Magers.
"She told me she would treasure the bracelet," Nickisch said.
Nickisch said the bracelet meant a lot to him over the years, not least because his uncle was in the Army and at one point headed the Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command in Hawaii, which Nickisch visited earlier this decade.
"I feel a kinship even though I never knew him," Nickisch said of Magers. "It was this sort of tangible connection to something that's a lot greater."
This program aired on August 31, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.