TRENTON – Senator Jim Beach, the Chairman of the new Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, announced that his committee will help return over 100 sets of dog tags from U.S. Servicemen stationed in Vietnam to their families State-side.
“Each of these dog tags carries a story, and in some cases, may help shed some light on the fate of lost family members,” said Senator Beach, D-Camden. “As public servants, we’re duty- and honor-bound to try to track down the families of military service members who’ve fallen in the line of duty. I pledge to work with contacts within State and Federal government, as well as veterans groups in New Jersey and around the country, to help bring these dog tags home.”
Senator Beach said he was first made aware of the situation by a friend, Manny Santayana, who, while on vacation in Vietnam, came across a young Vietnamese boy selling trinkets on a blanket along the Ho Chi Mihn Trail in Khe Sahn. Mr. Santayana purchased an ammunition can for $100, and when he looked inside, he found over 100 United States Servicemen’s dog tags.
Senator Beach added that since making the discovery, Mr. Santayana has tried to track down the family members of the military service members who owned the dog tags; however, he has had limited success due to privacy laws. Senator Beach has tried to assist, working with the Camden County Veterans Office and veterans groups from Gloucester County, and as a result, they’ve been more successful. On Monday, at the first hearing of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, the remaining dog tags will be delivered by George Greco, a mutual friend, to Senator Beach, who will be responsible for securing the dog tags until family members could be found.
“I’m happy to do my part for American heroes who may or may not have given their lives in the name of freedom and liberty abroad,” said Senator Beach. “So many of our returning Vietnam vets faced public scorn and hatred, and there are still so many soldiers who are unaccounted for. We owe it to the memories of fallen soldiers who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice to try to give their families some sense of closure as to the fate of their loved one.”
Senator Beach said his first order of business would be to contact the U.S. Department of Defense to see if the serial numbers on the dog tags matched any soldiers listed on MIA, POW, or KIA lists maintained on databases in Washington. After that, the Senator will work with veterans groups such as the American Legion and the VFW to reach out to the families of veterans, and will establish a Web site to try to reach a wider audience via the Internet. He pledged that his office would work diligently until every dog tag has been returned home.
The Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday at 1:00 PM in Committee Room 1 in the Statehouse Annex in Trenton.