Vietnam Veteran Gets His Camera Back 50 Years After it Was Stolen

Getting a camera back in good condition after it’s been stolen always makes for a “feel-good” story, but this particular tale goes above and beyond. Vietnam veteran Leon Hembree was reunited with his Canon 8mm camera a full 50 years after it was swiped from his bag in Vietnam.

The story reminds us of those “camera lost in the ocean” stories, where a GoPro or waterproof camera travels thousands of miles, washes up on a beach, and yet somehow the original owner is found. Except in this case, the “ocean” is made up of the 7 billion souls wandering the Earth.

Hembree tells NBC KFOR News the camera was stolen just days after he had picked it up. Cameras were cheap in Vietnam, and Hembree, then a camera enthusiast who still has photos from the era tucked away at home, would pick new ones up regularly. That’s how he came to be in possession of this 8mm Canon… until some pickpocket got it.

Fortunately, Leon was able to affix a (ridiculously resilient) label to the camera before it was taken:


That label is what Steven Bridges noticed after buying the camera at an auction in Wanette, Oklahoma for $6. But instead of ignoring it and putting the camera up on a shelf, he set about tracking down the original owner.

Bridges got in touch with the American Legion in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, who posted a photo and description to social media. Two days later, Hembree came forward. And the kicker? He was actually living nearby.

You can hear the full story and see Hembree’s reaction to retrieving his 50-year-old camera in the video at the top. His reaction, and ours, can be summed up in one sentence, though. Shaking his head and looking down at his long-lost, recently-found camera he says, “It’s good to know that there are wonderful people in this world that are willing to do for others.”