UA VETS Center working to return lost dog tags to U.S. military - Tucson News Now

UA VETS Center working to return lost dog tags to U.S. military veterans

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The University of Arizona's Veterans Education and Transition Services is working to return about 2,300 lost dog tags to U.S. military veterans who fought in the Vietnam War. 

The UA VETS Center inherited the dog tags from an independent nonprofit organization called the Tours of Peace Vietnam Veterans in 2016. 

Duan Copeland, a student veteran at UA, along with several others in the UA VETS Center have been researching veterans' last known addresses and verifying their identities for months. 

About a month ago, they sent out 100 letters to veterans or their family members. 

On April 18, they got a response from Thomas Lee Rhyner. Rhyner  is a U.S. Air Force Veteran now living in Schofield, WI. He was stationed in Vietnam from 1970-1971. 

"It felt like the culmination of a lot of work was finally paying off. Ecstatic. Everybody was overjoyed," Copeland said. 

Just this week, Marine Corps veteran Charles W. Batts Jr. was identified as well. His son, Bryan Batts saw his father's name on the list on the VETS website. 

"A lot of times that war is looked at negatively. So being able to return a dog tag to the veteran or next of kin and say we honor you, we remember. I think it means a lot," Copeland said. 

They are returning a piece of history and a very personal belonging, but they are also connecting different generations of veterans along the way. 

"Reaching out to those who served before really means a lot. I think connecting current day veterans, like all of our student employees are student veterans, connecting them with those that served before is awesome," Copeland said. 

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