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Memories of Vietnam Conflict Arrive in Stafford


By Rebecca Maitland

Memories of the Vietnam War surfaced for veteran Lanny Martinson on Aug. 24 when his dog tags were returned 45 years after he lost them. Veterans from all over the country watched as Martinson was presented with his dog tags at a ceremony at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Missouri City. Mayor Allen Owen and City Council Member-at-Large Danny Nguyen were also in attendance.

“Motorcycle groups from around the country attended and provided a motorcycle escort to Lanny as he drove to the Hall,” said Ranett Montemayor, chaplain, VFW Ladies Auxiliary. “It was all very exciting, it was a wonderful celebration, and the room was full. The VFW group here was thrilled to provide a place for the celebration.”

On June 4, 1968, 23-year-old Marine Sgt. Martinson was called to lead a patrol. When the rescues came, they set off a number of the other mines trying to get the men out. Martinson was hit a second time. In total, four died and 12 were wounded.

“The man in front, or the point man, stepped on a mine, and I got hit at the same time. I had a hole in my right calf. I put a tunic on to control it and called for someone to help the guy who stepped on the mine. He was in bad shape and later died. The guy behind me was hit in both his knees,” Martinson said.

Martinson lost his right leg and returned home in a wheelchair. Some­where between the mine going off and the rescue, Martinson lost his dog tags.

Fast forward 40 years, when John Naismith, an Australian resident, was visiting Khe Sanh, Vietnam, the area where Martinson and his men had been when the mine went off. Naismith recounted the story  at the celebration, saying that he was hiking when he saw a small pile of dirt and something shining sticking out — Martinson’s dog tags.

Naismith connected with a motorcycle shop owner in California, who contacted veterans groups across the country. One of those groups was in Fort Bend County.

“I was at home, watching a movie with my wife when I received the call my dog tags were found. When I heard the words, I went blank,” said Martinson. “This does not make me a hero, I haven’t done anything heroic to receive all this attention. I think my tags are just a symbol for many who remember the Vietnam War, those who were there, and families who remember.”

Word spread about Martinson’s dogs tag through social media and Facebook. The first day the announcement had 30,000 hits and Martinson’s name was Googled more than 350,000 times.

“It’s like I left a part of me over there and somehow its made it way back to me from a dark place. These dogs tags are a symbol, we all have a shared experience who were there. Everyone who was there has to some degree, Post Traumatic Stress, and I do.” He added, “I have always had nightmares, I was in charge of the patrol, I have the guilt, I have to live with it. But since I’ve gotten my dog tags back, I haven’t had nightmares, maybe these tags are closure,” Martinson said.

After returning home, learning to walk again with prosthetics, he tried to move on with his life. He married, worked and  had children.

“I worked as an architecture designer, construction estimator and then construction management. I worked on the legislature building in Austin and yet, I’ve never seen it so I’m going to make a trip to the State Capital,” Martinson said.

Martinson, 69, is now retired. He was born and raised in Minnesota and was  tired of shoveling snow. In 2010, Sugar Land became the destination for a new address because his wife has friends in the area.

Martinson remains patriotic and would have returned to Vietnam for another tour of duty, but he couldn’t pass the physical.

“I’d still fight for my country, I love America,” he said.

In the fall, Martinson will have a book published about his life and time in Vietnam titled “After the Rush.”

Marine Sgt. Lanny Martinson in his younger days.

Marine Sgt. Lanny Martinson in his younger days.

Lanny Martinson, Roberta Philips and Ranett Montemayor at the presentation ceremony.

Lanny Martinson, Roberta Philips and Ranett Montemayor at the presentation ceremony.

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