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A combat souvenir sent home in time for one old soldier’s Father’s Day

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EDMOND, OKLAHOMA -- Only about a year separates the two service portraits of Marine Dean Carter.
Age 18 to 19, 1968 to 1969.

Pointing to the earlier picture, Carter says, "He was trained in knowing what he was supposed to do. That other guy knew exactly what he was supposed to do."

Carter remembers that year better than any other.

It was the year he spent on patrol, in combat, in Vietnam.

Retired now, 22 years in the Marine Corps, a mind no longer occupied with a full-time job began to take him, increasingly, back to the war.

The memories that began to wake him up at night, his first patrol in Hue City, the time he caught bullets in the shoulder and leg the day before his 19th birthday, and the worst one.

Just days before his combat tour ended he killed an enemy soldier facing him just a few feet away.

"How far away were you?" asks a visitor to his Edmond home.

"Twice as far as from me to you," he says. "25 feet."

"I see his face all the time."

Carter took a souvenir that day crawling over to a Vietnamese fox hole to retrieve the soldier's helmet and canteen.

He kept it for a long time.

"It sat in my dresser for 40 some years," he says.

Former Master Sergeant Carter made it home.

His souvenirs were conversation pieces.

It wasn't until he became a father and grandfather that he started to see his trophies as something else, as belonging to someone else.

"I got to thinking that I would like to have known what happened to my son if something happened."

Inside the helmet the soldier he killed had inscribed his name, unit, and hometown.

This spring Carter sent the items back to Vietnam with a group dedicated to finding MIA's from both sides.

Carter says, "I figured if I can give closure to somebody it would make my heart feel good."

The helmet and canteen now reside in a Hanoi war museum.

Authorities there are searching for family or associates who might be connected with them.

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