NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A Staten Island war hero is looking for help returning a mysterious military keepsake to its original owner.

Vietnam War veteran Joseph Lospenuso was recently reunited with U.S. Army dog tags he got in 1971 after the original army-issued ones went missing, reports CBS2’s Dave Carlin.

The tags were misplaced right after the injury that earned him a Purple Heart and other medals.

The Brooklyn native was protecting his lieutenant. As they crouched down, an enemy bullet pierced his foot. He still has the boot.

“The bullet went in the bottom of my foot and out the top,” said Lospenuso.

After recovering, getting married, having kids, and relocating to Staten Island as a city bus driver, these tags rarely left his neck for nearly 50 years.

“I feel bad for all the people who never came back,” he said.

Two years ago, the tags disappeared while on a family trip.

“I took them off my neck forgot and about them,” said Lospenuso. “I lost them in a hotel in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Pretty upset about that.”

The tags were gone forever – or so he thought until he got the call that a new head of housekeeping found them in the hotel’s main office.

Now that he has them back.

“I will never take them off my neck never, ever, ever,” he said. “They’ll be around my neck forever.”

The story doesn’t end there: Also in the package mailed to him from the hotel was someone else’s military keepsake that they probably just assumed was his.

Engraved to remember some other, unnamed war hero from the same era.

“This dog tag that got sent to me has to be someone’s grandchild,” said Lospenuso. “It says, ‘My Grandfather, My Hero,’ so that chokes me up right away. Then it actually has the grandfather’s fingerprint on it, and the day he was born and the day he died. And it says, ‘To Poppy.’”

Lospenuso says finding the original owner is now a patriotic “pay it forward” mission for him.

“I just hope I can get back to whoever this belongs to,” he said.

He hopes someone recognizes the very unique item so he can close the book on the one lingering mystery that hitched a ride on his happy tale of lost and found.

Comments (2)
  1. Andrea Evans says:

    So glad he found the owner of the tags. What a wonderful way to pay it forward. I just believe that this was Poppy’s way of having the tag returned to his grandson, Jeremy. Mr. Lospenuso you are definitely a hero in my book.

  2. Patricia Purzewski Ochtera says:

    When my husband passed away we had tags made with fingerprint. Th name of the company that did this was LEGACY TOUCH, customer service # 1 855 802 6800 or email Hope this information will help Him find the rightful owner. Good luck

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