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January/February 2010

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The following notice appeared in the “Locator” section in the July/August 2009 issue of The Veteran:

Looking for Wayne Donelson, (service in RVN, 1970-71) or family or relatives, to return personal items found at auction. Contact: Dora Martin.

I decided to take up the challenge and try to find Wayne Donelson. In an email to Dora Martin, I discovered the personal item was a Zippo lighter engraved with Wayne’s name.

After some research, I found someone I believed was Wayne Donelson. I phoned and talked to Wayne’s wife, who said she would pass on the information to him. The following is an email he sent:

Dear Dora and Bill,

I couldn’t have been more surprised this morning when
my wife related a conversation she had last night with Bill Seater. Bill shared the news that you might have some items from an auction, including a lighter with my name and “Viet Nam 70-71.” That would have been my situation. Did it have Airborne wings on it as well? I have no idea where you might have located this as I returned to my parents’ home in Kenya following Vietnam, then to the Baltimore/D.C. area, then to Washington state, and eventually to New England where I finally settled in Massachusetts with my wife. Lots of national and international travels in between.

I think I had the lighter engraved in Vung Tau where I was stationed after an eye injury. How long I may have had that Zippo I don’t know. Possessions and responsibility seemed to come and go with the wind in those days. 

I can’t thank you and Bill enough for the great efforts you have taken to make this connection. You are indeed “paying it forward.”

I am interested in learning more regarding VVA and will likely join. Once more, thank you both.


The following is a response from Dora:

Hi Wayne,

It touches my heart to know that Bill found you, and you are as thrilled as I to know that your Zippo has found its home. I wish I had other things, but unfortunately the only item I have is the lighter.

I live in Mechanicsburg, Pa., and several years ago I attended an auction. I’m always looking for old sewing notions. I bid on a box lot and won the auction. Among the sewing items, I found this lighter. Put it aside for years but never discarded it. One day I happened upon it and wondered how I might find the owner. My husband, who is also a vet, suggested I contact VVA and that’s how Bill got involved. The rest is now history. I’ve taken pictures so you can make sure this is yours. Please find them attached.

I was so thrilled to receive your email. I took the lighter with me to work today and was telling everyone the story behind it. One of the managers suggested that my husband contact one of the local news stations as they are always looking for good human interest stories. He said the news is always so negative, that this would bring smiles to the faces of people, especially vets. Let me know your thoughts on this as I won’t do it unless you agree. As soon as you let me know, I can place the lighter in the mail to you. So glad that Bill found you.

Thank you so much, Bill. I was elated to hear that you had found Wayne, and it has made me believe even stronger in mankind again and that God is still in the hearts of people. 


Attached to the above email, Dora included two photos of the lighter. Wayne responded with the following email:

Dear Dora/Bill,

Thanks again. The Zippo in the photographs is indeed mine although it has been nearly forty years since I last saw it.

Oh, the stories lighters like mine, Bill’s, and thousands of others might tell, but they are probably best left in that Zippo vault of memories. Due to the kindness of both of you, this lighter will remind me of those brave men and women who today are protecting our freedom and fighting so others might have the same. 

While that period of my life is one which I rarely discuss or dwell on, it is one others are living today. I have no objection to you sharing this story, which may be of some human interest. The essence, however, are the small acts of kindness which people extend with little chance of reward or success, but they are done nevertheless. The world is a better place because of these random acts of kindness. Thanks to you both.

Bill Seater is a VVA member in Michigan.



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