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Recovering Objects of War Helps to Heal Wounds

2019-3-25

Jorge Altieri touches a helmet with old bloodstains on it. The device saved his life in 1982, when Britain and Argentina fought a war over the Falkland Islands.

The helmet, recently returned to Altieri, had been lost on the battlefield many years ago.

"I look at it and I get teary-eyed from all the memories," he said.

Argentine war veteran Jorge Altieri stands for a picture with the blood-stained helmet that saved his life in 1982 during the Falklands war, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Argentine war veteran Jorge Altieri stands for a picture with the blood-stained helmet that saved his life in 1982 during the Falklands war, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Argentina lost the war after its troops invaded the Falklands, a group of islands in the South Atlantic. In all, 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers died in the fighting.

Argentina still claims ownership of the islands, which it calls the Malvinas. British officials call them the Falklands and say they are self-governing and under British protection.

Relations between the countries have improved recently. A deal permitting a team of experts to recover and identify the remains of Argentine soldiers is one example.

Today, the soldiers who fought and relatives of those who died say recoveries of helmets and other objects seized after the war have helped them heal.

Diego Carlos Arreseigor is an Argentine military veteran. This month, he announced that he is planning to return the helmet of British soldier Alexander Shaw to his family. Shaw was killed in battle at the age of 25.

The helmet is expected to reach Shaw's sister Susan in April or May.

Arreseigor said he found the helmet with other equipment and hid it from a British soldier. He kept if for 37 years, thinking of it as "a trophy of war" that made up for "the loss and pain of so many fallen friends."

Shaw died just hours before a cease-fire took effect. Arreseigor said the British soldier's story moved him. "It's sad like all war stories…. I just turned 60 and I demand our sovereignty over Las Malvinas, but I also pay homage to those who died – Argentine and British – because I think that's the way to rebuild."

For Altieri, seeing his helmet again helped him find similar closure. "I can't stop looking at it, thinking about what it did to stop the bomb shrapnel blowing my head off," he said.

Altieri lost an eye and part of his brain in a blast during the battle for Mount Longdon on June 12, 1982, two days before the fighting stopped.

After the cease-fire, a British soldier took Altieri's helmet to London. After the soldier died, his family kept the helmet until it was put up for sale four years ago.

Altieri offered to buy it, but a British man offered to pay twice the amount. Altieri could not persuade the man to sell it back to him.

Recently, however, the helmet went up for auction on eBay, an e-commerce website. The asking price: about $13,000. Altieri feared he had lost it, until he heard the news: an Argentine businessman had bought it for Altieri.

"All the memories of what I lived in the Malvinas came back to me," Altieri noted.

He hopes to display it at home before giving it to a Falklands war museum. "I want people to see it and see what happened to us there," he said.

I'm John Russell.

The Associated Press reported this story. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

helmet – n. a hard hat that is worn to protect your head

teary-eyed – adj. having eyes that are wet with tears

trophy – n. a prize or award; using the equipment of a defeated army as a memorial of victory

sovereignty – n. the power of a state or area to govern itself

homage – n. something done to honor someone or something

closure – n. a feeling that a bad experience has ended and that you can start to live again in a calm and normal way

auction – n. a public sale at which things are sold to the people who offer to pay the most