Missing for 50 years: Orrington teen tracks down grandfather's Vietnam War helmet

ORRINGTON, Maine (WABI) - While serving during the Vietnam war a veteran from Millinocket had his helmet stolen.

He told the story to his grandson, who made it his mission to get it back...

50 years after it was taken... That's just what he did.

"I was over in Vietnam from '68 to '69 December," said Paul Mott, who served until 1971.

In the summer of '69 he'd gone to a shop East of Saigon to have his helmet engraved...
It was soon thereafter that it was taken.

"An Australian 'acquired' the hat at the mess hall from me while we were having a bite to eat," he remembered.

For decades he wondered about it.
15 years ago he got a phone call.

"Got a call from the guy that took the helmet," said Mott. "His daughter. She quizzed me a little bit about who I was and she eventually stated that they had something that belong to me."

At the time Mott said that Australians that served were issued soft hats and the man said he took the helmet for protection. Saying he'd return it, but there was a catch...

"He told me if I wanted the helmet back that I would have to go to Australia and get it," said. Mott. "And that was a little out of my reach so I just kind of put it on the back burner and forgot about it."

"Me and my grandfather are really close and I heard him tell me the story multiple times about how this Australian had taken it and how he thought he would never see it again," said Brayden Mott, Paul's grandson. "And I thought, how cool would that be if we could actually bring it back."

Australia is a long, and expensive trip. Brayden's mother made him a deal - come up with half the cost of going - $1500 - and i'll take you..

"I started mowing lawns and raking leaves," he said.

Soon enough...

"Got the money for it and she finally had to fulfill her end of the bargain."

Off they went for 11 days armed with a name and address from 15 years ago.

"We get down there and we call the phone number," said Brayden . "She asks if she has the helmet and she says yes.. When I heard the lady say over the phone they still have the helmet it was like shocking."

They'd found it, and decided to keep it a secret until they returned this past weekend.

"So I had him close his eyes and I take it out of the bag and put it on his lap," Brayden said.

Paul added "When I open my eyes and I saw the hat in the condition that it was in, or is in I was just amazed. It was just about the way that I had last seen it."

After hearing them both tell the story of getting the helmet back we asked Brayden why was finding it so important

"He had never really told many stories to me about Vietnam and this is the one thing that he was really serious about telling me about," he said. "So, I thought well if it's the one thing he really cares to tell me, it's the one thing that he should have back. So that's why I was so determined to go and get it."

"Just amazing," said Paul.