Ames Veteran Gives Stranger Sentimental Gift

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AMES, Iowa -- An Ames veteran has kept the memory of his friend alive for the last five decades. Now he's passing on a closely guarded keepsake to the next generation.

“I always saw her car that had the USMC and I always wondered whose is that?” asked 81-year-old Chuck Benson.

After wondering for the past year, the Army vet finally met the owner of the US Marine Corps bumper sticker. Kristen Ruppel is the proud mom of a 22-year-old Marine. Her son, Austin Vandivier, is currently stationed in Hawaii.

A few days later, Benson surprised her with the most unexpected token of his friendship. He gave her a pin that belonged to another Marine who was one of his best friends.

“I said, 'I can't take this. It was your friend’s.' He said, 'I want you to have it,'” said Ruppel.

Benson and his friend, Dave, were in ROTC together at Iowa State back in the '50s. He joined the Army while his friend went on the serve with the Marines and shipped out during the Korean War.

“I stayed stateside and he never came back,” said Benson.

For more than 50 years, he kept his fallen friend’s pin in his jewelry box. When he met Ruppel, he knew she would appreciate what it represents.

“That Chuck would give me, a stranger, something so sentimental that he's kept all these years. In today's age, you know, we need those feel-good stories,” said Ruppel.

Benson says it was emotional when he pinned the Marine emblem on Ruppel.

“It kind of represents a continuation of service to the country and doing the best you can to help maintain peace,” he said.