MICHAEL PATE/Photo illustration
In 2004, Belinda Brass-Hudson finally opened a chest of letters, telegrams and other items her mother, Helen, had stashed away after the death of their father in 1966 during the Vietnam War. Inside was a letter to the late Staff Sgt. Basil Brass, whom his troops referered to him as “dad.”

It was mid-August 1966 when Belinda Brass-Hudson, then all of 8 years old, came into the living room of the small trailer in Fort Valley, Ga., where she, her two brothers and mother were living in.

As she came into the room, she saw her mom, Helen, on the sofa, in tears, accompanied by two men in U.S. Army uniforms.