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The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 8, February 20, 2011, Article 8

FALLEN PHOTOGRAPHER'S VIRGIN MARY MEDAL RECOVERED IN VIETNAM

Bill Rosenblum writes:

Here's an interesting story of a lost "medal". A little smile helps this day when Rita and I have been thinking of Steve Tanenbaum.

Virgin Mary medal recovered in Vietnam It was a love token worn through the blood-drenched rice paddies and jungles of the Vietnam War.

For Henri Huet, the Virgin Mary medallion was his one constant link to Cecile, the woman he loved. The celebrated Associated Press photographer carried it in his pocket or hung it around his neck. It was engraved for her baptism and when he left for the war, she gave it to him.

On assignment, the military helicopter Huet was riding in got shot down over Laos. Huet was killed. The medallion the size of a penny disappeared into the thickness of a bamboo forest, where it slept for nearly three decades.

This past week, the gold medallion was again in the hands of Cecile, the culmination of an extraordinary journey that took it across epochs and continents and whose mystery was unlocked by a long-lost trove of letters.

Duty called later in the year: Huet was sent back to cover the war.

He wanted her to join him in Asia but not in war-ravaged Vietnam. Parting, she gave him the medallion a baptismal gift from her godmother, in keeping with Roman Catholic tradition.

They wrote each other letters, hundreds of them. The correspondence lasted nearly three years. She wrote her last letter the day he died when she woke up in the middle of the night, sensing a "need" to write.

It was Feb. 10, 1971. Huet, 43, had boarded a South Vietnamese military helicopter in the town of Khe Sanh, near the border with Laos, with a mission to inspect efforts by U.S.-backed forces to sever Viet Cong supply lines.

In a flash of anti-aircraft fire, the chopper was gunned down. All four photographers were killed, along with seven Vietnamese troops, one of them a military photographer.

Along with the men, the camera equipment, and the military hardware, a tiny disc of gold also tumbled down from the skies above Laos. On one side was a relief of the Virgin Mary; on the other was etched, "Cecile, nee le 16-6-1947" French for "born on June 16, 1947."

For 27 years, the keepsake lay on an overgrown Laotian hillside.

There's more to the story. The article is exceptionally well written, so please check out the full version. The article didn't picture the "medallion". Cecile (pictured above, now 63) "says her five-year-old granddaughter will get the medallion one day." -Editor

To read the complete article, see: In Vietnam War love story, a medallion comes home (www.foxnews.com/world/2011/02/13/vietnam-war-love
-story-medallion-comes-home/)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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