A flurry of phone calls connected Stevenson to several key people who were not only touched by her tenacity in wearing the bracelet for 10 years, but also by her heartfelt desire to return the treasure to Curran's family. And just when it seemed like she would never find the people she sought, she discovered a phone number listed in the MIA's own name. Mrs. Patrick Curran lives in Kankakee, Ill. and she has never remarried.
Stevenson spoke with Cherrie Curran at length and discovered her daughter Stacy is now married and recently had a baby boy, whom she named Patrick.
"It just seemed impossible," Stevenson said. "But there she was, talking to me about her family and her husband."
Things quickly fell into place, presenting Stevenson with the perfect opportunity to bring her journey full circle. She accepted an invitation from the American Legion Post in Elmhurst, Ill. to attend a rally for the troops where she would be presented with a flag to honor the memory of the man she had carried with her for so long. And she would detour to Kankakee to return the silver bracelet to Curran's widow.
The trip was "amazingly quick," Stevenson said of her journey with close friend Beth Dennis and WBKO photographer Rodney Gilstrap and his wife Kim. They took time for a quick tour of Chicago and visited such places as the Sears Tower and the Hard Rock Cafe.
As time grew near for the group to arrive at Wilder Park in Elmhurst, Stevenson felt the gravity of the impending ceremony grow inside her. The bitter wind clawed around the knot of people gathered for the rally. Before she could give in to the temperature that felt "like it was freezing my brain," Stevenson was surrounded by the Legion members who wanted to meet the "girl with the bracelet."
People arrived in a steady stream; the crowd swelling to an estimated 500 people. Motorcycle riders with POW/MIA and United States flags attached to their bikes roared in to lend their support for the brothers and sisters who now fight in Iraq.
The mass of people quieted as young Adam Benkendorf, a singer with the Chicago Opera, stepped up to sing the Star Spangled Banner. After a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, Stevenson was presented with a POW flag, an American flag and a Marine Corps flag.
"I didn't know what to say," she recalled. "It was such a tremendous moment."
However, her greatest moment still waited for her in Kankakee. As the group arrived at Cherrie Curran's home, Stevenson clutched the small, white box containing the bracelet. This was it, she realized. It was time.
"She was so beautiful," Stevenson said of Curran. "Inside and out, she was beautiful. She's the kind of woman who makes you want to be a better human being."
As the two women shared their stories, Stevenson learned the Currans had only been married two-and-a-half years when Patrick joined the Marines. The young man knew it was only a matter of time before he was drafted. He had wanted to join the Air Force, but was prevented from doing so because of an astigmatism.
He was killed just three months after leaving for Vietnam. And despite knowing her husband was dead, Cherrie was told to "pretend" he could still be alive because Major Curran had disappeared in Laos -- a place the United States was not openly purported to be.
She shared a photograph of her husband taken in Vietnam, a young soldier with a lanky frame standing in a doorway. Stevenson was struck by his young face and penetrating eyes, remarking that his loss was so sad.
"It could be anyone," she said. "The times we're in now, it could be anyone."
When asked how she had lived with her husband's loss , Mrs. Curran said, "Time takes care of a lot of stuff. Stacy gave me a reason to go on. He was a wonderful dad."
Finally, it was time for Keneta Stevenson to do what she had to do. She gave the scuffed silver bracelet to the widow of Major Patrick Curran, who placed it on a shelf next to a shiny, clearly etched one. The two bracelets sat side by side on a shelf, glinting in the evening light. The journey, the circle, was complete.
(Information and photographs for this story was gathered by Beth Dennis and Keneta Stevenson.)