We’ve all heard incredible stories about dogs returning home after long absences, but it’s pretty rare to hear of dog tags resurfacing after 40 years.
That’s Gary Forsey’s story.
The St. John’s native and retired U.S. serviceman recently received a dog tag he lost during a tour of duty in Vietnam — 40 years ago.
“I was surprised, because I didn’t know I lost it,” says Forsey, who lives in Lewiston, Idaho.
Soldiers wear two dog tags for identification.
Forsey, 76, lost one of his in Vietnam, where he fought twice and was wounded in 1973.
“We had some incoming and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground.”
He retired as a warrant officer in 1974 after 21 years of service — nine with the U.S. Air Force and 12 with the army.
He put his remaining dog tag in a drawer and never gave it much thought until recently, when a guy called out of the blue to say he had Forsey’s other one.
Chuck Peterson, a U.S. Army vet, came across the ID while on business in Hanoi, Vietnam, a couple of years ago.
The Minnesota man saw a street vendor wearing a U.S. Army dog tag.
He learned she had numerous others and was selling them for a buck apiece.
Peterson bought the works and left Hanoi with 270.
One was Forsey’s.
Peterson called, first speaking with Forsey’s wife, Marie, and then with the former soldier.
Soon, the dog tag was in the mail.
“At first I thought it was a scam,” Forsey says, “but it turned out it was not.”
The ID was accompanied by a note from Peterson, who wrote it was a true honour and privilege to find and return it.
“Your service and sacrifices for our nation merits the highest level of praise,” it read.
Forsey says he had no idea how he lost the dog tag.
“Unless one broke loose in the bed or something.”
He also has no idea how it ended up in north Vietnam. He had never been in that part of the country.
Decorated soldier looks forward to St. John’s visits … Continued from page A1
Forsey, whose father Philip Forsey served as health minister in Joey Smallwood’s cabinet, left St. John’s when he was 17 and moved to Connecticut. He lived with his grandmother and completed Grade 13.
He then joined the airforce. Besides Vietnam, he also served in Korea during a career that saw him decorated with numerous medals and badges, including a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Presidential Unit Citation badge and Gallantry Cross.
After his military career, he went to university and became a teacher. He was named educator of the year by the Lewis-Clark State College alumni in 2002 and continues to tutor today.
Forsey, who’s also a martial arts expert, is now battling diabetes and lukemia. He says he doing OK and notes a good sign is that he’s not on any medication for the lukemia.
He tries to get back to St. John’s every year and expects to attend the 60th reunion of his Prince of Wales class this summer.