A local Vietnam veteran’s lost dog tags have finally been returned to him after 40 long years.
For the past four decades, retired Sgt. Major Stan Grimes says he felt a piece of him was missing, left behind in Vietnam.
On an early morning more than 40 years ago, right in the heat of a firefight, Grimes lost the dog tag he wore around his neck.
“Rounds were flying over my vehicle as we were set in for the night, so I jumped off [the vehicle] and that’s probably where I lost them,” Grimes told NBC 7.
Personalized dog tags were designed to identify those killed in action. Grimes said he recalls wearing the small pieces of metal during his time in the service, as if they were a part of him.
“[I wore] one around my neck and I put one on my boot, just in case I got separated from it,” he said.
Without that dog tag, Grimes made it home. He then served in Operation Desert Storm.
When Grimes retired in 2005 after serving 30 years, he never expected to see his long lost dog tag again.
But little did he know it had been discovered in 1998 along with more than 80 others by an American in Vietnam.
“Some guy got lucky and found my dog tags in the middle of a rice paddy,” said Grimes.
On Sunday, Grimes returned to his former unit – 4th Tank Battalion on MCAS Miramar – where he was reunited with his dog tags, a very special piece of his personal history.
Grimes said holding his dog tags in his hands again brought back memories and a sense of closure and legitimacy from his time in Vietnam.
“It’s just a surreal moment, you know, getting back something that is sorely missed all these years that was a testimony to my service in Vietnam,” said Grimes. “It completes my cycle from being in Vietnam. It completes it; it legitimizes and completes it for me.”
Grimes says a New Jersey state senator was given the dog tags found in Vietnam and has been making an effort to return them to their owners or surviving family.
Grimes says most men on that list were killed in action in Vietnam, which is why getting his dog tags back was so rare and special.
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