It took nearly 50 years, but a local former Marine has been reunited with a piece of his past.
Charles Saffels was 18 when he enlisted in the Marines, fighting in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968. He was hit by a grenade, leaving the entire left side of his body numb.
"They dressed my wound and then cut my boot off. We always have a dog tag in our boot in case of death – you're identifiable. Well, they cut mine off and left it in the jungle," Saffels said. "To me and most veterans, it's a major piece of our life."
The dog tag is something Saffels never thought he'd see again.
"I never expected to see 21, let alone my age, 67," he said. "This dog tag showing up, it just sparked life again."
The tag was returned to him by Bryan Marks. Ten years ago, Marks was vacationing in Vietnam when he discovered thousands of dog tags. He made it his mission to return each one to its owner or the soldier's family.
"When I was 18, I was just a kid. That seems really young to me to be going over to a place where you're watching your friends die and possibly being put in a position where you have to kill people. So it's a lot of stress on someone so young. It's just a way of saying thanks to the veterans who actually went over there and served," Marks said.
"Vietnam is always in your head. It's always in mine. I never forget it. I'm the only survivor out of my patrol, so it's pretty important to me," Saffels said.
Saffels said soldiers typically have two dog tags. He gave the other one to his daughter when she was a baby. She died three years ago, but he wanted it to remain with her.
Now that he has the other one, he said he'll never take it off again.
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