American veteran John Wast found an enemy helmet while on a mission in Vietnam and 46 years later has returned it to the family of Bui Duc Hung, whom the helmet belonged to. Buc Hung’s remains were never recovered, but his family says they consider the helmet to be a part of him and appreciate the helmet being returned.
HUONG NON, VIETNAM (Associated Press) — In 1968, young American soldier John Wast was scouring a battlefield in central Vietnam for weapons and intelligence when an enemy helmet with an image of a dove scratched onto it caught his eye. He tied it to his rucksack, and five months later took it home as a war souvenir, where for 46 years it had sat on a shelf.
When a U.S. veterans’ charity approached him asking whether he would like to see the helmet returned to the family of its onetime owner, he said yes, so long as it didn’t cause them any more pain. The group, the Development of Vietnam Endeavors Fund, located the family of the soldier, Bui Duc Hung, who was killed in the war, his remains never recovered.
On Tuesday, four U.S. veterans returned the helmet in a ceremony in the Hung’s family’s village 45 miles northwest of Hanoi that stressed the need for peace and reconciliation.
“This is a very sacred moment for my extended family,” said Bui Duc Duc, the 52-year-old nephew of the slain solider.
Duc wept as the helmet was placed in front of a family altar in his house. The Americans, along with around 100 villagers and local officials gathered for the ceremony, looked on. A bust of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam’s victorious war time leader, was also in the room.
“We consider this helmet as part of him and we will keep as a reminder for our family’s future generations,” he said.