A Soviet soldier by the name of Bakhretdin Khakimov had been missing since the beginning of the nine-year Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979.
A Moscow-based nonprofit, Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee, that specializes in tracking down missing soldiers found Khakimov living a semi-nomadic life as part of a local clan, reported Russian state-run publication Ria Novosti.
He had sustained a head injury and was nursed to health by a villager, who took him in and taught him the trade of healing.
The committee has discovered 29 missing soldiers alive in Afghanistan, and still has 263 on its list.
In the chaos of war, soldiers are sometimes declared dead, but reemerge decades later to the great surprise of their families and countrymen.
Other Tales of Long-Missing Soldiers
Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda of Japan continued to fight for nearly 30 years after the Japanese emperor declared peace in 1945. He was found on the Philippine Island of Lubang in 1974 and demanded formal orders to surrender before laying down his arms, according to a BBC News article from February 2011.
Shoichi Yokoi was found in a Guam jungle in 1972. He had been hiding there for 28 years, sure his fellow Japanese soldiers would find him, according to a BBC article from January 2012.
When he was discovered by local hunters, his nephew Omi Hatashin Told BBC: “He feared they would take him as a prisoner of war—that would have been the greatest shame for a Japanese soldier and for his family back home.”
In 1996, an American soldier in the Vietnam War turned up alive 26 years after he had gone missing, and 17 years after he had been declared dead.
Master Sgt. Mateo Sabog went to a Social Security Adminstration office in the state of Georgia in February 1996 to apply for benefits after somehow staying off the grid for so many years, according to an Associated Press (AP) article from that time.
AP reported that it was unclear why he chose to reappear at that time.
He had last been seen on Feb. 25, 1970, in Saigon, South Vietnam. He was shipping out to a post at Fort Bragg. He was not missed at the post when he did not arrive; because of an administrative problem, the post was not expecting him.
“We are treating Master Sergeant Sabog like a long lost soldier returned,” Col. Don Maple, an Army spokesman, told AP.
The Army put the 73-year-old back on active duty.
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