The long-lost U.S. Army identification tag of a North Dakota soldier has been returned to his widow after it resurfaced in Russia. Governor Doug Burgum gave Ronald Hepper's military tag to his widow, Ruth Hepper of Bismarck, on Wednesday.
"We are forever grateful for his courageous service and sacrifice," the governor tweeted.
Ronald Hepper had kept a set of his dog tags in his boots, and had been in Vietnam just a few months when a blast from a hand grenade blew his boots off his body in June 1969, according to Burgum's office. Hepper woke up in the hospital with no boots and no dog tags.
He spent three months in an amputee ward, but doctors were able to save his legs, which were wounded by shrapnel. He received the Purple Heart for his injuries.
After his military service, Hepper returned to a ranch near Isabel, South Dakota. He and his wife moved to Bismarck to be closer to family a few months before his death in January 2007. She said her husband was a proud veteran who struggled with PTSD, CBS affiliate KXMA reports.
The military ID was found by an American citizen traveling in Russia. The American bought the ID from a street vendor in Moscow and brought it to the American Embassy. The tag was eventually returned to the North Dakota Governor's Office.
It's not clear how the ID ended up in Russia but Ruth Hepper believes it may have been discovered and collected by one of the Russian soldiers who served alongside the North Vietnamese military, KXMA reports.
Ron Hepper is buried at the North Dakota Veterans Cemetery, the station reported.