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Brookhaven still cares about native son who never made it home

Last Saturday morning, a crowd gathered downtown by the railroad tracks. They were there to dedicate a new and improved monument to honor Brookhaven native Danny Entrican. Since I’m one of the last ones around with a blood connection to the soldier listed on that piece of granite, organizers asked me to speak. Here’s what I said.

I grew up in the shadow of a cousin who went missing in Vietnam.

At family gatherings, relatives spoke his name in whispers. A reverential hush followed every mention of his special ops service. But I was only 5 when authorities listed Capt. Danny D. Entrican as missing in action. To me, he was a guy in faded photographs from a time period I knew little about.

The biggest thing Danny and I shared besides a great-grandfather was our last name. Where I was raised in North Mississippi, Entrican is not a common name. People can’t pronounce it, and people can’t spell it. But when I moved to the Brookhaven area some 20 years ago, I discovered people were familiar with my unusual maiden name, and it wasn’t because Louis Entrican had a Dodge/Plymouth car dealership. It wasn’t because he served as a county supervisor. No, it was because of his son, Danny. Brookhaven cared about their hometown hero. They held out hope he would come home.

These days my cousin’s image looms large on muraled walls down at the VFW, but all of his immediate family members have died. His parents, his sisters, his brother — they lived for decades wondering what happened to Danny. For all those years, they were faithful to maintain expectant contact with the Department of Defense. They made calls and inquiries. They granted interviews and spoke to reporters. Some were there when the VFW building was named in Danny’s honor. But none can be here today.

My dad is the lone Entrican left in the Brookhaven phone book. As a young man, he worked at Louis Entrican’s service station. He remembers when Danny would come there and run around between the gas pumps. Back then, my dad surely never thought he’d one day be 88 and getting calls from Washington, D.C., about the status of MIA Danny Entrican.

But my parents, because of their last name, field calls that come from places like North Dakota and Rhode Island. People want to know what happened to Capt. Dan Entrican. They know him because his name is inscribed on MIA bracelets they kept from the ’70s.

My brother, Greg Entrican, lives in Indianapolis. He’s had people message him on Facebook and ask if he’s related to Danny Entrican. Usually it’s someone who wore an MIA bracelet with his name inscribed on it. My brother has even had someone give him one of those. 

You’ll remember that these bracelets were sold during the war. Their owners vowed to leave them on until the soldier named on the bracelet, or their remains, were returned to United States. Between 1970 and 1976, approximately 5 million bracelets were distributed.

Here’s what one person wrote about hers:

“I have worn my MIA bracelet faithfully since 1972. People ask me what that is on my bracelet, and I share with them what I know about Danny Entrican. He made the Vietnam War a reality to me. I remember watching the guys come home and praying one of them was him. I searched the lists hoping his name would be there, but it never was.” 

No, it never was. Never has been.

Those bracelets were important reminders to those who wore them, much like this rededicated memorial here today. The sobering truth is, we may never know what happened to my cousin. This May will mark 49 years since Danny went missing.

But we will have this perpetual reminder, and all who read it will know that Brookhaven cared a great deal about a native son who never came home from the Vietnam War. They will know that his sacrifice was not in vain. Thank you for continuing to honor Danny Entrican in this way.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.