Dog tags come home to Warwick thanks to stranger from down under

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Kevin Belanger left for war about 50 years ago. Now, something he left behind has come home.

In the spring of 1967, as the Vietnam War was raging, the 19-year old tank operator from Rhode Island began a year-long tour.

Belanger’s girlfriend Ruth waited at home, hearing about the dangers in her boyfriend’s letters.

“Every day,” she said when asked how often she worried if her future husband would come home. “The war was raging then. He took part in the Tet Offensive, and he was tanker. He was in the line of fire. The captain of the tankers died in his arms.”

A year later, Belanger was home and soon married to Ruth. But he was still enlisted, with war protesters in plain view.

“And the college kids saying, ‘hey, hey, L.B.J., how many kids did you kill today?'” his widow recalled. “It plays on your mind.”

Her husband passed away in 2009. But this year, a surprise came from down under.

An Australian businessman had bought several dog tags from street vendors in Vietnam and in Belanger’s case, he contacted the Warwick Beacon. The paper then sent a reporter to Belanger’s daughter’s home.

“I was not able to speak because it was just right out of the blue,” said Lori Belanger.

Her first call was to her mom.

“She said, ‘ma, you’re not going to believe this,'” Ruth Belanger said. “Some guy in Australia has daddy’s dog tags.”

Now, some 50 years after her husband survived Vietnam, the tag he carried through the war is home. It’s a reminder for this family about what everyone close to him went through.

“He went out there, served the country, and put his life on the line,” added Lori. “I got a little piece of my dad right there.”

A piece that would have never made it back to Warwick without the help of a complete stranger.

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