Personal Effects Program
We are grateful for the help from Senator John McCain’s staff who brought TOP and the University of Arizona VETS program together in order to continue our Personal Effects Program. In keeping up with the legacy of TOP, The University of Arizona VETS program has pledged to continue the mission to return these personal effects to the veteran or surviving family members! VETS is an organization run by veterans, spouses, dependents, and current service members who through their shared experiences endeavor to maintain TOP's legacy and better serve our communities.
TOP is extremely appreciative of VETS taking charge of our Personal Effects Program. Perhaps some day they will return personal effects from more recent conflicts. We encourage you to visit VETS and the Personal Effects Program at (and dog tag list): http://vets.arizona.edu/top
TOP Vietnam Veterans recovered personal effects left in Vietnam after the war, such as dog tags and clothing, and returned them to veterans and surviving family members. These personal belongings are both a remembrance and a way to honor the veteran's service.
I really have no idea where to start. This is all just so overwhelming. It puts to a close a long troubled 35 years of wondering how this will all end. Well, finally with that tag I can move on. My hair stood up when I got the package. I was afraid to open it. I held it for a few hours wondering if I should just leave that chapter closed. Well I opened it and I went into a zone I thought was over. It hit me very hard as I reminisced of the that chapter. I could actually smell the fire, the thick smoke after a spurt of fire exchange. I felt the heat and humidity and exhaustion of a long day of humping. I could smell the napalm. I could hear the cries, feel the fear, and remember my ears ringing after incoming.
From this day on I will wear this tag until one day I can give it to my son. I will always wear it proud, and most of all I will wear it in honor and the utmost respect for the brothers and sisters who never returned, and for the MIA's still there . . . and for all the other vets of other wars and conflicts.
Thank you TOP for the homecoming we never received . . . the thank you we never got . . . and the acknowledgment that we are all a special breed of vet . . . and the peace of mind that we did our best in such time when the nation didn't understand.
Please don't stop your mission. You are needed more than you will ever realize.
TOP recovers artifacts of the war:
One of our veterans does some post-war archaeology excavation work near where he served by Da Nang.
"When TOP Vets returned my dog tag to me, I cried for 3 hours. I never shed a tear before. I was very depressed, and I never talked about the war with my family. I started working on my issues, and I am now taking one day at a time. This past Christmas I gave my dog tag to my son, and for the first time talked to him about the war."
Each Tour, TOP Vietnam Veterans retrieves dog tags to be reunited with surviving family members or living veterans. Click here for a list of the names on the dog tags. We may have yours, or one of someone you know. We need your help to return these important belongings to those who will treasure them the most.
"It's hard to put in words how I felt. I felt joy and sadness at the same time. When I received the dog tag, I couldn't believe that after 30 years, I held a part of my brother's last belongings in my hand."
brother of James Raychel, KIA 1969
TOP painstakingly authenticates each dog tag as legitimate--not counterfeit; data is verified. We are sensitive to the emotional issues that often come up when a veteran or family is notified of the find. TOP is extremely careful that personal effects are matched correctly with the rightful recipients. Our presentation to recipients is done respectfully and solemnly. Each dog tag is enclosed in dark velvet blue box, accompanied by a letter of appreciation and recognition. (Occasionally a TOP representative will make a personal presentation of the personal effect.) This is all done at no cost or expense to those receiving dog tags or personal effects--thanks to those who contribute to TOP and our Personal Effects Program. We do this a memorial to the service of the person named on the dog tag.
TOP VIETNAM VETERANS FINDS CAPTAIN MARSHALL'S FAMILY,
REUNITES PERSONAL EFFECT
On a 1999 Tour of Peace, Mr. Le Sinh, from DaNang, approached TOP representatives with a personal effect. Mr. Sinh, an ex-ARVN staff sergeant, served the Marines as an interpreter during the war. We met in Hoi An, and he brought with him an old green burlap sandbag with an aging green vinyl rain poncho folded up inside. Mr. Sinh informed us the poncho belonged to his "best friend," Marine Captain Willard Dale Marshall. He vividly recalled Captain Marshall dying in his arms on June 11, 1968. Mr. Sinh described an explosion. Captain Marshall, wearing the rain poncho, appeared hit. Mr. Sinh removed the poncho, searching to for the wound, but saw no injury. He removed more clothing finally discovering the mortal wound. The bleeding was severe. "He died in my arms," Mr. Sinh said tearfully, reaching out his arms as if still holding him. He presented us with the poncho, and asked us to take it back to America, find Captain Marshall's family, and return it to them. "There's not a day that goes by that I do not think about my friend."
TOP began a long and exhaustive search for surviving family members. We received a reply from Captain Marshall's oldest son. He explained how he was only four years old when he lost his father, and that loss had a great effect on his life. In his letter he wrote, "I would like my father's poncho. I have very little else to remember him by anymore. It helps to know my father did not die alone." In January 2001, after 33 years, Captain Marshall's poncho came home; along with Mr. Sinh's account of his death, and poignant story of friendship. This article of clothing, worn at the time of Captain Marshall's death, stored in a simple burlap sandbag was returned to the family with the highest respect for Captain Marshall, and the sacrifice he made. Symbolically we sent it in his memory, and the memory of those who gave all. We sent it with respect for his family, and for all families who carry on in their process of grief and healing.
Thank you to all who help with our searches, and financially support our personal effects efforts. Also, thank you to all who have financially supported our personal effects efforts. Because of all of you we will continue to help families make sense of their losses, and find healing & closure.
LETTER FROM CAPTAIN MARSHALL'S SON
Dear TOP Vietnam Veterans:
I did receive my father's poncho and I thank your organization again for its return to the family.
To Mr. Sinh I would just wish to express my gratitude. It is because of his caring and patience that something which initially had no inherent value now does. It is because of his trust in your organization that I now have this thing. I cannot imagine how it must have felt for him to hold on to this item for so many years... the attachment he must have felt to my father... and then to be able to give it up, just for the chance that it could be returned to the family. I don't know that I'll ever be able to understand how he could do it.
I don't actually have any questions for Mr. Sinh. It's obvious he valued my father as a friend, and I think his actions have answered the question of "what kind of man was my father" better than anything else could. Apparently he was the kind of man that others respected and called friend. Enough so that one of them held on to what would have otherwise been a worthless piece of vinyl for over 30 years, and then gave it up in the hopes it would reach my father's family.
The poncho is still just a poncho. That's all it ever was, or will be. But, the care that it was given, the trust in which it was kept, and the patience that was shown by Mr. Sinh tells me what kind of man he is. That he would do these things as a remembrance of my father gives me an idea of what kind of man he was. That is what brings tears to my eyes.
If you have the chance to talk to Mr. Sinh please tell him that it's not so much the poncho that mattered, but his friendship with my father, which so obviously remains to this day.
"I have been proudly carrying Paul Theriault's name for 30 years now, but have known precious little about his service in Vietnam. Recently, I have been able to find some men who served in his unit, and they've had some great things to say about him. But, to now have a chance to find one of his dog tags so many years later, is just unbelievable. I can't tell you what I felt when I opened the box, but somehow I felt much closer to Paul. It was amazing to hold in my hand something that he too must have held at some time. It is wonderful to see the individualized care you give these tags. These otherwise insignificant pieces of metal are priceless to people like me, and it is clear that TOP realizes this."
Named after Paul Theriault
USMC, KIA 1968
Cousin of KIA Receives Dog Tag
I take this brief opportunity to send your organization a heartfelt note of thanks for recovering my cousin's dog tag. Corporal Stephen J. Lukasiewski, USMC, was killed in action in Vietnam on Dec. 18, 1965. I remember the day my father received the phone call with the tragic news. Since then, the years have passed. Through the Internet over the past several months, I have located many of Steve's friends, in fact, I am in regular contact with the squad leader who was with Steve the day he died. In learning of Steve's service in Vietnam, I found out he and others he served with were among the first in-country, were heroes and should never be forgotten.
Corporal Stephen J. Lukasiewski, USMC
Retired Navy Senior Chief Journalist, James Baron,
received his cousin's dog tag from TOP.
The Internet also enabled me to locate this organization. When I saw that one of Steve's dog tags was recovered, I was amazed and in disbelief. I contacted TOP Vietnam Veteran's and without hesitation, the dog tag was sent to me in a respectful fashion. Thank you. It will be a permanent treasure within our family. I now have more than a photograph of my cousin. I now have something he personally owned and was proud to wear. All the best and again, thank you.
James Baron, Fredericksburg, VA
Dog Tag Presented To Veteran By Top Participant
On Saturday, May 12, 2001, in front of the Moving Wall exhibit at the Naval War College in Newport, RI, Jim Benoit presented SFC Robert Berriault (retired) with a dog tag that TOP had recovered in Vietnam. The dog tag belonged to Berriault when he served in Vietnam from 1968-69. He was stationed in Chu Lai. Benoit, who served in the army as an aircraft mechanic, and a crew chief from 68-70, and his wife, Brenda, were Tour Of Peace participants in March 2001. On that Tour, TOP found Berriault's dog tag in Hoi An, in the Quang Nam province, along with 79 other dog tags. Once back home in MA, Jim Benoit became a volunteer for TOP's Personal Effects Program, and began an Internet search for the veterans whose names are on the tags. Two other veterans have also received their dog tags thanks to Jim's dedication and investigation.
After the presentation, Jim said, "Robert and his wife, Julie, were filled with emotion as I presented his dog tag to him. He was amazed to be reunited with it after all these years. There were many other veterans there at the time of the presentation, and they were equally surprised that after nearly 30 years such an event could happen. It was a tremendous high for me and has really helped me. I would like to thank Jess DeVaney and the TOP organization for giving me this opportunity."
For the list of names on our dog tag list click here.
"Thank you so very much for my dog tag, the beautiful box it came in, and the letter that was very much needed. You are special people and may God bless you all. Thanks Again."
"I want to thank you for sending me my dog tag, although I think of Nam frequently, I was overcome with a special emotion upon opening that box. It's hard to believe that after 33 years it was found and returned. Thank you."