Orlando, Fla. The mother of a Marine killed in Vietnam received his dog tags in an Independence Day ceremony after two Florida businessmen found them for sale in a back-alley market in Ho Chi Minh City.
Rob Stiff and Jim Gain were so sickened at the discovery of Lance Cpl. Allan George Decker's tags that they returned to Vietnam in May to buy them and hundreds of others. Upon returning to America, they began trying to reunite soldiers and their families with the lost tags.
On Wednesday, the men gave Decker's mother the tags at the Orlando cemetery where he was buried after his death in 1968. The moment had added meaning for her because July 4th is her birthday.
"I just hope that other families can find the kind of peace that I have felt today," Ruth Decker said. "The Lord had his hand in this from the beginning."
Since the end of the war, Vietnamese field workers have found all sorts of military debris: boots, helmets, badges, buttons, medals and dog tags.
Servicemen usually wore the tags silver rectangles that listed a soldier's name, military identification number and blood type around their necks, but in the field many put them in their boots so they wouldn't jingle.
Stiff and Gain weren't looking for war mementos when they traveled to Vietnam in January. They wanted to check the commercial climate for possible business ventures. But in a market not frequented by tourists, they found the dog tags dangling from a string.