Dog Tag Return
Lost. And Found
In Detroit, an incredible thing happened.
Bent from the impact of a terrible force, recovered from the dirt of the DMZ and passed through unknown hands to souvenir stalls in Hue, two sets of dog tags came home to their families, dog tags worn by our brothers who died in the DMZ. They were found by a father-and-son team who themselves had worn dog tags as combat Marines.
For all of us, the days that we remember most from our time in Vietnam were the ones where we lost brother Marines. Their faces are always with us, young as the day they died.
Those of us who served in the DMZ in September and October 1968 remember many such days.
In our Remembrance and Dog Tag Return Ceremony at our reunion in Detroit, we remembered all of our fallen from that operation, inviting every family we could locate.
But in two remarkable cases, we had something to give besides our condolences.
The first is that of LCpl Lancaster "Lanny" Brown-Bey, who grew up in Detroit. Remember him?
If you were in the 81s platoon, you would. He was one of those people whose smile was contagious. He was easy to like, and as a big man with lots of confidence, he was easy to respect, too.
Lancaster Brown-Bey died on LZ Duster in the DMZ on October 1, along with LCpl Monte Henderson.
It was two weeks after the carnage at LZ Margo. As we landed, we took fire from 130mm artillery and lost Brown-Bey and Henderson in the first barrage, and then more were severely wounded in the minutes afterwards as the 81s platoon regrouped off the LZ into a position to support the battalion.
LCpl Lancaster Brown-Bey, 81s, BLT 2/26. Photo courtesy of Esther Lewis.
And it was the same exposed LZ where the late Cpl Eric "Smitty" Smith displayed great courage under fire medevac'ing the wounded and dead.
Back home, Brown-Bey's four-year old sister Esther and one-year old brother Malcolm were too young to have ever really known their older brother. Esther's only memory is that people mistook her big brother for her father when he took her for a walk.
Lanny's family has lived the years since with holes in their hearts, along with a deep pride in such a brother as would give his life for his country.