Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dogtags in the Jungle

It has been a very hectic and heady couple of weeks. We had a very nice story in the Desert Sun, and there a wonderful story on Aki Ra featured on And the people we visited in Hong Kong are still writing checks for the Museum and Child Relief Centre, so that is all really good.


But let me tell you about what happened last week.

I got an email from a good friend, Gary Christ, who works with the Angkor Association for the Disabled. They help landmine victims and have about 4 dozen people living at their facility in Siem Reap. The man who runs the organization had someone walk in the door with what appeared to be human remains, along with two dogtags from American soldiers. They wanted to return them to the proper authorities but didn't know how to go about it. And they didn't want to get in trouble. They had known about these dogtags for several years but hadn't done anything about them.

Geary emailed me because he knew I was in Cambodia. I contacted some people I know at the American Embassy and was put in touch with the MIA Researcher working here.

Keith Lane, a photojournalist from Maine, and I visited AAD and saw both the remains and the dogtags. We went together so we had verifying witnesses as to what we saw. I photographed the dogtags (not the remains) and sent the information on to the Embassy to confirm what information was given to them.

Then we waited.........

I went to several websites and searched the names. They were not among any of the KIA or MIA from the war, but that isn't necessarily definitive. I have a good friend whose brother died in Vietnam. She went to the opening of the Vietnam Memorial in DC and his name was not on the Wall. It is now.

Well... eventually it turned out that these were just a pair of lost dogtags that someone had found in an area where there had been a lot of fighting. From talking to the farmers who brought them in, we think the dogtags were actually found in Vietnam, but the border in the northeast is a bit, shall we say, fluid.

The researcher from the embassy told me there are thousands of dogtags lost during the decade or more in which we had troops in SEA. And they are turning up all the time. If you ever go to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) you will find American dogtags in dozens of souvenir shops. The government used to think there was a little machine shop somewhere in Vietnam pumping these things out, but now they believe them to be real, lost during the war.

So the bottom line is some 65 year old Vietnam Vet could get his identity stolen because he lost his dogtags in Vietnam when he was 19 years old. Dogtags have your SSN on them. Wouldn't that be kick in the behind. Getting bit by Vietnam 40 some years after you thought you had left it behind.

Well more later..........

Babu from the jungle


safdar ali said...

The tags are so useful and helpful for identification and finding information easily.
Is this true that now the plastic key tags are also used for this purpose?

Usman Hadi said...

Do you know Scratch Card ,can also be used!