Lost and found, Dog tags return home

It’s a single moment in time that Mike Cini never will be able to forget: 9:15 a.m., Aug. 24, 1971.

He was in his second year serving in Vietnam, in the town of Hoi An, located halfway down the country’s eastern coast. The squad he oversaw was called on to meet a helicopter dropping off mail and supplies.

Cini and six men carefully made their way to the helicopter and retraced their steps on the way back.

“And that’s when I stepped on it,” Cini said.

It was a land mine that blew off Cini’s left leg. He was helicoptered out of the area, six months shy of completing his tour of duty. He spent roughly a year in and out of hospitals around the world before returning to the Quad-Cities and his fiancee, Ann.

Cini said he thinks about the incident almost every time he stands up or walks with a slight limp. But he considers himself fortunate to have come home alive.

“There are worse things, I guess,” Cini said of the incident.

Nevertheless, one thing that hardly entered his mind over the past 35 years was his dog tags or military identification. His first set, which he wore on a long chain around his neck, fell off somewhere during his initial month on duty. And the second remained attached to his right boot, which was left in the field after the land mine explosion.

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