Piqua collector reunites helmet with Army veteran 45 years later

An old military helmet collected by a Miami County man has been reunited with its former owner, a veteran who lives in North Carolina.

Mike Haines of Piqua is an Army veteran who collects military hardware, with helmets being the primary part of his collection. After Thanksgiving, he was looking at a helmet that use to be part of his son’s collection because he was going to give it back to his son and then replace it with another from the same era.

Haines said they’ve owned the helmet for 30 years, but when he pulled the liner out, he was shocked by what he saw.

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“I found the tape label in the back that said ‘R. Gilmore’ Hillsboro, North Carolina and a little ECU,” Haines said.

He then saw smaller letters following the ‘R’ and realized the man who use to own the helmet was named Rick. Haines got on Facebook, and the first Rick Gilmore he found was from North Carolina and had attended East Carolina University.

Haines reached out to make sure he had the right guy, and Gilmore confirmed that used to be his helmet.

“He says, ‘What would it take to get that helmet back?’” Haines said. “I said, ‘Just send me your address.’”

Haines mailed the helmet to Gilmore, who got it just a couple weeks before Christmas.

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“I literally had tears in my eyes,” Gilmore told WFMY-TV in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Knowing that somebody would be that kind to send this to me — a total stranger.”

When Haines saw what it meant to Gilmore and saw him get choked up after being reunited with the helmet, he said he knows he did the right thing.

“It gave me chills, it still does just talking about it,” Haines said. “I would only pray someone would do the same thing for me.”

Gilmore was drafted in 1972 and stationed in Germany. He was a sophomore at East Carolina University when he was drafted.

When Gilmore returned home two years later in November 1974, he dropped his helmet off and went back to college.

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He didn’t think of the helmet again until a few weeks ago when Haines contacted him.

“To me it’s a legacy of my military service that I can — I’ve got two children and grandchildren — that I can pass this down to,” Gilmore said. “(It’s) a family heirloom that they can keep forever.”

Gilmore races go-karts in Camden, Ohio, twice a year. The next time Gilmore is in the area, the two plan to meet in person. Gilmore plans to thank Haines again for the best Christmas present he never knew he wanted.

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