Sixty-year-old Joe Winder at first thought it was a scam.

Mixed in with the mail one day in late October was a letter from a group called Tours of Peace, telling him his older brother's dog tag had been recovered from Vietnam.

David Winder, with whom Joe had shared a room most of their childhood, was 23 when he was killed in Vietnam on May 13, 1970. He died trying to save his comrades, which earned him the country's highest award for heroism, the Medal of Honor.

"It just blew me away," Joe Winder said of the discovery, as he stood in the doorway of his Mount Airy home on Tuesday, nervously smoking a cigar, waiting for a token lost nearly 40 years.

For Tours of Peace Vietnam Veterans, it was also an amazing find.

For 10 years, under the aim of healing, members of the Tucson, Ariz.-based group have traveled to Vietnam to revisit old military sites and conduct humanitarian projects such as purifying water and delivering school supplies. They also recover soldiers' lost artifacts to return to veterans or their surviving families.

During a two-week tour in Ho Chi Minh City (the former Saigon) in June, Jess DeVaney, 59, the group's president and a retired Marine Corps rifleman, and about a dozen veterans/volunteers recovered some 200 dog tags from sellers and samaritans. One of them was stamped: David F. Winder.

The group has found 1,940 dog tags in total, and returned about 580. This was the first time a find had been linked to the revered Medal of Honor.

It took months to verify David Winder's dog tag and track down his family.

Distracted by his father's grave condition after a fall, Joe Winder, who owns the Pipe Rack in Chestnut Hill, shelved the letter.

But he spent Veterans Day thinking about his brother and the next day called Tucson to arrange a meeting.

On Tuesday morning, DeVaney arrived from Arizona. In Joe Winder's doorway, they exchanged thanks, handshakes and hugs. With DeVaney were two other veterans who work with Tours of Peace.

As they settled into the living room, Winder offered coffee. Then, he put his head down and broke into tears.

When David Winder, a conscientious objector, was drafted, he considered fleeing to Canada. "But that didn't feel right to him either," his brother said. So Winder served as a medical aidman, unarmed.

"He didn't want to kill people, he wanted to help people," his brother said.

Joe Winder, an Army vet stationed in Germany in the late 1960s, counts himself lucky. He somehow avoided Vietnam.

David F. Winder was born in Edinboro, in northwestern Pennsylvania, the third of four children. The family later moved to Ohio, where he was drafted.

In the last letter he wrote home, in May 1970, he set a date when he would call. He never did.

That May 13, Winder was moving through freshly cut rice paddies when his unit was pinned down in a firefight, according to his medal citation. Though shot twice, he crawled to the nearest casualty and administered aid. He continued crawling, aiding other soldiers, until he was killed by a third bullet.

"I'm sure his love for other people drove him to do what he did," said Joe Winder, his face red from tears. "He was a great brother. But I had no idea what a great guy he was."

After DeVaney read Joe Winder a tribute from Tours of Peace, noting service and sacrifice, healing and closure, he handed him a small black velvet box, which Winder gently opened.

"Whoa," he said.

As Winder held the slightly bent piece of metal in his hand, he rubbed his finger over his brother's name and sobbed.

He plans to wear it close to his heart.

Contact staff writer Kia Gregory at 215-854-2601 or kgregory@phillynews.com.