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Family of fallen Vietnam GI finally gets medals

Jan. 13, 2013 - 10:47AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 13, 2013 - 10:47AM  |  
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ALANSON, Mich. The family of a northern Michigan soldier recently received a box of his medals 42 years after he died fighting in Vietnam.

Doug Tanner of Petoskey was killed in the war in 1970 at age 20. Relatives in the Petoskey area of northern lower Michigan recently received a box with his medals, including a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

The medals were discovered in a basement in Georgia, said Tanner's brother, Mark Tanner of Alanson. The home belonged to a Defense Department official who was supposed to send the medals to the Tanner family but never did,">the brother told the Petoskey News-Review.

The box was found by relatives of the deceased official while going through his possessions.

Mark Tanner said his brother "was a little lost in life" when he enlisted and was counting down the days until he was discharged.

"We got a letter from him right before he died," the brother said. "He had 155 days of service left. He was looking forward to getting released."

But then Doug Tanner volunteered for the special mission and was killed while rigging mines along with two other volunteers.

The medals that should have been delivered include a Bronze Star, an Army Commendation Medal, a Good Conduct Medal and the Purple Heart.

Now that the medals have been delivered, Mark Tanner said he wonders why it took so long. The official whose assignment was to deliver them was retiring, so perhaps the medals slipped through the cracks.

"But why didn't he pass them along?" Mark Tanner asked.

Whatever the reason, the medals traveled with the official when he retired to Georgia. Late in 2012, the man's daughter and great-granddaughter were sorting through his effects when they came across a trunk holding with the medals.

"They said, ‘This isn't right. Dad should have delivered them,' " Mark Tanner said.

"We have a mystery," he said. "The Army dropped the ball ... but things happen in life. ... Now, 42 years later, we have the medals. We have a happy ending."

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