US veterans return hat to Vietnam martyr's family after 46 years

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 US veterans carry a helmet to return to its former owner, Vietnamese martyr Bui Duc Hung, in the northern province of Phu Tho on Jan 14 / PHOTO COURTESY OF AP

A group of US veterans has returned a pith helmet with an image of a dove etched in it to the family of its former owner, a Vietnamese martyr, in the northern province of Phu Tho 46 years after it was found by an American soldier.

A solemn ceremony to return it was organized in the home village of Bui Duc Hung, 70 kilometers northwest of Hanoi, with US veterans from the Development of Vietnam Endeavors Fund, local villagers, and officials attending, AP reported Thursday.

Since Hung was killed during the Vietnam War and his remains have never been found, his family received the helmet and placed it on the family altar.

"This is a very sacred moment for my extended family," Bui Duc Duc, the 52-year-old nephew of Hung, was quoted as saying.

"We consider this helmet part of him and we will keep it as a reminder for our family's future generations," he added.

According to AP, the helmet was found by John Wast in 1968 when he was scouring a battlefield in the central region for weapons and intelligence.

Five months later the soldier hailing from Ohio state took it home as a war souvenir and kept it on a shelf for 46 years.

When the US veterans' charity asked him if he would like to see the helmet returned to the family of its owner, the 67-year-old veteran agreed.

Development of Vietnam Endeavors Fund discovered the owner's identity after poring over thousands of wartime documents.

In a statement read out at the ceremony, Wast, who has never returned to Vietnam, said: "The time has now come for me to return this helmet to those who knew and cared for Bui Duc Hung.

"I do this with thoughts of love and peace to you all," he said.

Around 3 million Vietnamese were killed in the Vietnam War.

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