Surprise Gift Honors Vietnam Soldier's Life

By Kerri O'Hara

Surprise Gift Honors Vietnam Soldier's Life

July 22, 2010 Updated Feb 24, 2006 at 12:23 AM EST

"For my father this missing piece of my brother’s soldierly existence became part of a wound that really didn't heal," says Roberta Crawford.

Douglas Crawford of Long Island died at the age of 20 in Vietnam. His body returned home, but his dog tags never did.

Or so the family thought.

The missing dog tags tormented Crawford’s father, Albert, a World War II Veteran.

"Some irrational question as to whether or not my brother was really dead. It was something that haunted him the rest of his life," says Roberta Crawford.

Last summer, Albert Crawford died in a mental hospital at the age of 81.

A month later, Douglas's dog tags were found in an army file in Washington D.C.

Thursday, they were returned to his brother Franklin and sister Roberta during a special service held at Cornell University in Ithaca.

Franklin was 12 and Roberta 17 when Douglas was drafted and went to Vietnam as a radio communications operator.

"I can't help but think my brother truly believed he was there to help," says Roberta.

Franklin says when his father took Douglas to the train station, he had a feeling he would never see him again.

In the file where the dog tags were finally found, there was a letter from the father requesting the return of his son’s service items.

"I really didn't know my family was waiting for something, but my father knew it," says Franklin Crawford.

Even though their father never lived to see his son's dog tags returned, the Crawford's say this ceremony gives them a sense of closure.

Both Franklin and Roberta Crawford now live in Ithaca. Their brother's dog tags were presented by the ROTC at Cornell University.

The ROTC also has the duty of calling on families of soldiers who are killed or injured in action.

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