My dad and his platoon happened upon a VC weapons cache; by ‘happened’ I mean they ambushed a VC convoy. He took a rifle and with the proper paperwork was allowed to take it Stateside when his tour was over. For years I was told that when he died I could do whatever I like with any of his possessions but never ever give away or sell that rifle-a Chinese Type-53 Mosin Nagant, Caliber 7.62, Model 1954. He saved all the paperwork-applications, customs forms, weapons registration, etc., which had nothing to do with nostalgia and more to do with making sure he had everything documented; all his ducks in a row as he liked to say. I promised him I would keep it and I did.
Yet out of everything he held onto from the Vietnam War-letters, papers, photos, gear, etc.-none of it means as much to me as his engraved Zippo.
It’s a 1967 (four lines to the left of Zippo, three to the right) Zippo that someone, a platoon buddy maybe (?), spent a fair amount of time engraving the 1st Cav Division patch, the Combat Infantry badge, Jumping Mustangs (Honor and Courage), and a helicopter. Although no personal statements or pithy insights were carved on his lighter, the emblems and symbols speak for themselves: in spite of everything he was proud to be a part of the 1st Cav and proud to serve his country.
Had he known what things would be like upon his return home I think he would’ve carved this instead: We are the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary for the ungrateful*
*Source: Vietnam Zippos: American Soldiers’ Engravings and Stories (1965-1973), ed. Sherry Buchanan