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Vietnam veteran’s long-lost military ID tag returned to his widow

BISMARCK, N.D. — The long-lost U.S. Army identification tag of a North Dakota soldier has been returned to his widow after it resurfaced in Russia.

Gov. Doug Burgum gave Ronald Hepper’s military tag to his widow, Ruth Hepper of Bismarck, on Wednesday.

According to Burgum’s office, 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. 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, S.D. He and his wife moved to Bismarck to be closer to family a few months before his death in January 2007.

Gov. Doug Burgum presents Ron Hepper’s military ID tag to his widow, Ruth Hepper of Bismarck, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at the Capitol in Bismarck. Also pictured are, from left: Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, Hepper’s daughter Julie Hornbacher and her husband, Jim, and Ron Hepper’s brother Stanley Hepper and his wife, Kathleen. (North Dakota Office of the Governor)
Gov. Doug Burgum presents Ron Hepper’s military ID tag to his widow, Ruth Hepper of Bismarck, on Wednesday, Sept. 30, at the Capitol in Bismarck. Also pictured are, from left: Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, Hepper’s daughter Julie Hornbacher and her husband, Jim, and Ron Hepper’s brother Stanley Hepper and his wife, Kathleen. (North Dakota Office of the Governor)

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.

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