WASHINGTON, D.C. – Leon Abbott made a startling discovery while rummaging through his late mother Sarah's personal effects last December.
"She was instrumental in launching the POW/MIA movement, and it turns out the bracelet she wore was John McCain's," Abbott said in an interview. "Pure coincidence."
Sarah Abbott and millions of other Americans began wearing the copper bracelets in 1970 to draw attention to the plight of U.S. service members missing or taken prisoner in Vietnam. She wore hers until McCain and his fellow POWs were released by North Vietnam in 1973.
She met McCain briefly at a reception in Washington, D.C., for the returning POWs.
"There were many people tugging on him at the time, so they didn't really have much of a conversation," Abbott said.
After her death in 2001, her belongings were put in storage in Florida, and Abbott came upon the bracelet six months ago in a storage box.
"I was pretty amazed," he said.
Abbott, who describes himself as an independent or a Democrat, not a Republican, has never met McCain, but he's willing to give the presumptive Republican presidential nominee the bracelet, if McCain would like it.
"I suppose the initial step would be to write him a letter and see how he reacts to it, but I don't want to politicize the event, so I was kind of waiting until after the election," Abbott said.
Carol Bates Brown, who began making the POW/MIA bracelets in 1970, said there is no way of knowing how many John McCain bracelets were distributed because no records were kept.
Incidentally, Abbott's mother was not the only family member who had a brush with history.
Her father, Gen. Leon Johnson, was awarded the Medal of Honor for leading the bombing raid on the Ploesti oil refineries in World War II.
"There were actually five Medals of Honor awarded on that mission, the most of any action, ever," Abbott said. "Three of them were posthumous."
Abbott plans to present his grandfather's Medal of Honor to the Army Heritage Museum in Carlisle, Pa., in November, right about the time of the presidential election.
John Rutherford is an NBC News Producer based out of the Washington, D.C. bureau and is a decorated Vietnam veteran. He also posts stories on the military at www.dailynightly.msnbc.com (click on "John Rutherford" under "categories").