By Betsy Dolan
Thanks to an Australian teacher’s love of Vietnam War history and the power of social media, a Vietnam veteran who lives in Sugar Land finally has one of his dog tags back 45 years–almost to the day– after it went missing.
On Saturday at the VFW hall in Missouri City, Lanny Martinson was honored for his service in Vietnam and for the amazing story of his dog tag that resulted in an international search and a happy ending.
The story began in 1968 when Lanny Martinson, a Minnesota native, was a member of the 9th Marine Regiment, stationed at the Vietnamese village of Khe Sahn. Intense fighting was underway and Martinson was with his outfit on patrol near a runway when a landmine went off.
“Someone stepped on the mine, and it killed him and wounded four of us,” the 68-year old Martinson said. “I had a hole about the size of a softball through my calf, so I pretty much knew that (my leg) was gone.”
In the ensuing chaos while medics evacuated Martinson and three others off an airstrip near the village, the dog tags went missing. Martinson says he never thought about the dog tags until recently when he filled out the paperwork to get a new one so his daughter could wear it.
Vietnam war buff makes amazing discovery
John Naismith, an Austrailian native who was teaching English in Vietnam, enjoyed spending his weekends touring battle sites and indulging in his love of Vietnam War history.
Two years ago, he took a DMZ tour and ended up in the village of Khe Sahn where he visited a museum on the old military base. After the museum visit, Naismith was trying to find an old airstrip he had heard about when he saw something.
“It was shining in the light in the red dirt. I brushed it off and it was someone’s dog tag. How it got there, I have no idea,” Naismith said.
Naismith says he spent two years emailing various military officials in the United States trying to locate the dog tag’s owner, but got no response.
A career change brought him to California on a business trip where he told a friend, who happened to own a motorcycle shop, the story about the dog tag. The motorcycle shop owner contacted a friend with connections to Vietnam Veterans motorcycle groups and from there social media took over.
Lanny gets the call
The call came when Lanny and his wife Delphine were watching television in Sugar Land one night. On the other end of the line was Staff Sergeant Joshua Laudermilk who was stationed in Afghanistan and had heard about the search for Martinson on Facebook and was the one to successfully track him down.
“When I got the call, I wasn’t sure how to handle it, “Martinson said. “The old stuff starts coming back. I went into the bedroom and had a good cry just thinking about my brothers.”
Martinson finally get his dog tag back on Saturday at the VFW Hall in Missouri City. John Naesmith was there long with 100 riders from the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club. Missouri City Mayor Allen Owen proclaimed the day “Lanny Martinson Day”.
“When you were in Vietnam I was a little boy in the village, looking at the heroes who tried to protect our village,” said Missouri City Councilmember Danny Ngyuen, who grew up in Vietnam during the war. “It’s my honor to join you to welcome you home.”
Ngyuen plans to raise money for Martinson to return to Vietnam next summer where he’ll meet Naismith at Da Nang before going to the DMZ. Martinson has plans to write a book about his story but says he can’t finish the book until he returns to the place where his story started.