Vietnam vet returns enemy helmet to family after 45 years - Toledo News Now, News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Vietnam vet returns enemy helmet to family after 45 years

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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -

John Wast will never forget his time in the jungles of Vietnam, but he's about to let go of one item that reminds him of that time more than anything.

"I picked it up and tied it to my rucksack later and brought it home, and it has been in my office desk for 45 years," said Wast.

He's talking about a helmet he found lying next to a dead north Vietnamese soldier after the smoke cleared from a 3-day battle. It was August of 1968, and the helmet was Wast's only souvenir from his year-long stay.

The enemy soldier had scratched his name, Bui Duc Hung, and a palm tree onto the helmet, and maybe more surprising, a dove, the sign of peace.

"I thought about maybe him, leaning against a tree in early night and scratching that dove in really quick, and he did a great job," Wast said. "If we gave it any though, they probably didn't want to be there any more than us. Their lives were harder than ours."

After 45 years, Wast decided it was time to return the souvenir. He worked with the Toledo-based Dove Fund, Vietnam veterans who raise money to build schools and clean water systems in Vietnam, and found the fallen soldier's family near Hanoi.

"If your brother was killed in a car accident, you wouldn't want his shirt, but in their culture, it works differently," he said. "It's a gruesome reminder to me, but to the family, to have something that he owned, and particularly something that he wrote his name in, and drew a dove, it's wonderful."

Members of the Dove Fund will take the helmet to the family in January. Wast is having professional photographs taken of the helmet, as a reminder for him and his grandson.

"I wouldn't mind hearing from the family," he said. "I don't know what will happen, but…whatever happens, I'm sure I will appreciate it."

The helmet also has several bullet holes in it, a reminder of the brutality of war, but Wast is hoping he's making a difference with his offering of peace.

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