Paul Pichardo

Paul Pichardo as he appeared while on a search-and-destroy mission during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Pichardo lost a lighter he purchased in Vietnam and then learned that it had been found back in the United States 46 Years later.

FAIRMONT — A Vietnam veteran and a lighter he lost in the jungle one night will be reunited after a broadcast news story goes national.

Paul Pichardo was at his Saint Cloud home when he began receiving phone calls from around the country. People called from states such as Arizona and Idaho, and told Pichardo that his lighter had been found.

One caller, an Iraqi War veteran, explained to Pichardo that he had seen the story in a Facebook post from a Richmond-based television news station.

Pichardo called his son Robert, who viewed the news broadcast before contacting the news station that had originally broadcast the story. Robert will be receiving the lighter and will give it to his father.

Pichardo served in Vietnam with the 27th regiment of the United States Marine Corps. He was stationed near Da Nang in what was then South Vietnam.

According to Pichardo, his regiment was an emergency force deployed after the Tet Offensive.

The lighter was a purchase Pichardo had made during a special trip into Da Nang in 1968.

When Pichardo had first been in Da Nang, his regiment moved out of the city to a defensive position south of the city.

According to Pichardo, the different forces had documentation that had to be transported to headquarters for higher-ranking military officials to look over and review. These documents were transported by couriers, who always had another soldier rider shotgun with them.

“I got a chance to go with that courier one day to Da Nang ... I got to the Marine Corps PX in Da Nang and bought the lighter and had it engraved then,” Pichardo said.

According to Pichardo, having identification information on a lighter was common for troops, who used lighters for many purposes.

“I had all of my identification — my name, my rank, serial number and everything — on that (lighter),” Pichardo said. “We did that because you could step on a boobytrap and your dog tags could be blown (up) and the lighter would be in your pocket with all of your identification on it.”

Eventually, the lighter was lost.

“I lost that lighter over there in 1968 on a night patrol,” Pichardo said. “I was on a night patrol and the next day it was gone”

After 46 years, Cindy Simons, the widow of the Marine who kept the lighter in his possession, and her boyfriend sought the original owner of the lighter. According to Pichardo, Simons’ husband had found the lighter on a deceased Marine before bring it back to the United States.

“Each platoon had their own area to patrol and I figure that the guy who found this was probably patrolling the same area that I was and found it,” Pichardo said.

Pichardo explained that the lighter had a very unique engraving on it in additional to his information. He believes this engraving helped get the attention of many.

 “When this Marine dies, he’s going to Heaven, because he’s already done his time in Hell,” Pichardo recited the engraving on the lighter. Pichardo said he cannot believe that this happened to him.

Email Richard Babich at rbabich@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @rbabichTWV.

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