BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Jan Siddall dangled a chain bearing two rectangular pieces of metal, the copper and nickel finish weathered by more than 70 years in the elements.
“A little rusty, but they’re in perfect condition,” she showed 24 Hour News 8 Monday.
It’s a set of dog tags, imprinted with important information in case a soldier was injured or not coming home.
“This is his mom, Charlotte A. Young, and her address in Battle Creek, Michigan,” Siddall said, reading the inscription on the tags. “And she of course was his next of kin cause he wasn’t married yet.”
The tags belonged to Rex Young, Siddall’s father.
A U.S. Army radio operator in Europe during World War II, Young fought at Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. When he returned home after the war, he got married, got a job and raised a family.
He never said much to his family about the war, but his discharge papers list a number of awards, including a Bronze Star.
Rex Young made it home. His dog tags didn’t.
Fast forward more than seven decades.
It was around Memorial Day. Siddall and her family had spent the day watching episodes of the “Band of Brothers” miniseries when Siddall’s daughter got a call from as Texas company that makes metal detectors.
A customer of Garrett Mental Detectors in France found the dog tags of one Rex Young of Battle Creek, Michigan.
“They were contacted by the person who found this and he wanted to get it back to the family,” Siddall said.
She was suddenly reconnected with her father, who died in 2006 at age 84, in a way she never imagined.
“It’s just amazing to think that anyone could go through those battles, and come back and have, you know, built our country, really,” Siddall said.
There remains some mystery surrounding the find. Siddall assumes her father simply lost his dog tag while in France. But where? And under what circumstances?
The family has an email address for the Frenchman who found the tags and hopes future exchanges might answer some of those questions.
The unexpected find has already had an impact on generations to come.
“To us, it’s part of our heritage and legacy,” Siddall said. “Our grandkids are interested in it. Everybody thinks it’s just great.”