DEL CITY, OKLAHOMA– From the dark place all lost items go to the bright light of a friendly Oklahoma parking lot, Steven Bridges bought this old 8mm film camera at an auction in Wanette, OK.
“I saw it and thought it was kind of cool,” he says. “I bid $6 for it and bought it.”
It wasn’t until he got his camera home that he noticed a name, Leon Hembree, etched in the top along with dates and location, Saigon, Vietnam.
Bridges says, “I thought it might be kind of cool to track him down.”
Steven contacted the American Legion Post in Tecumseh.
Post Commander Micheal Ballard put up a notice on social media.
Ballard jokes, “People are going to be thinking I’m good at this.”
Two days later this Leon Hembree called to claim a piece of equipment he’d lost nearly fifty years before.
“I went over as a member of the Army 124th Transportation Co.,” he says.
Leon loved to take pictures back in the 60’s.
A veteran of both the Marines and Army, he still has still photos of the USO shows Bob Hope put on for troops overseas.
Cameras were cheap in Saigon so he bought several.
Hembree barely got it home before it was stolen, he thinks around 1967.
“My memory is not that good any more,” he admits. “When, I don’t know. I’ve had so much stuff stolen.”
Whoever had this camera took care of it.
It appears to work.
There’s even film in it.
Nearly a half-century after it went missing in action, something from his distant past made it back thanks to one long-lasting label and a couple of thoughtful fellow veterans who found it and thought to search.
“I appreciate it,” says Leon to Steven Bridges.
“Our pleasure,” comes the reply.
Hembree plans on taking the film to a processor to try to save it.