While in Vietnam this summer with his family, ROTC Cadet Jesse Pakula, a sophomore criminal justice major from Upper Saddle, N.J., visited several souvenir shops hoping to find an authentic United States military dog tag. Although the majority of the tags he saw were imitation, he found a genuine tag in one small shop in Da Nang, and purchased it with the intention of returning it to its rightful owner, Carlyle J. Gainey. Upon returning to the United States, Pakula, with the assistance of SSG Michael Million, an instructor in the Military Science program, began searching for Gainey, first looking through the names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall, and then conducting a number of Internet searches.
It was several weeks before the two discovered a 2005 photo of the retirement of Wyandanch High School basketball coach Carlyle Gainey. SSG Million contacted the Basketball Coaches Association of New York, and the organization put him in touch with Gainey, who now lives in South Carolina.
In addition to the dog tag, SSG Million and Pakula sent Gainey a package containing a T-shirt, hat, and two challenge coins, courtesy of Niagara’s ROTC and Veterans Services offices.
“He probably lost the tag 50 years ago in Vietnam,” Pakula says. “It’s pretty cool (to return it). I’m sure he’ll be happy to see it again.”