Artifacts are important to archaeologists and historians because they are first-hand sources that tell a small part of a vastly larger story. Personal artifacts hold a much deeper meaning because they connect us directly to a certain point in our own personal history. Artifacts of war hold a special meaning of a most complicated story that was personal for millions of soldiers who bravely fought for their countries.
To some, they remain buried treasures of a storied past waiting to be rediscovered. To be collected, donated, displayed, and talked about for generations. Artifacts have a way of finding themselves back where they started.
10. Modern Day Treasure Seekers
Jury Galli, of Pisa, Italy, wandered down a quiet beach with his trusty metal detector. Searching the beautiful Italian sands for anything from fine jewelry to rusty coins. Personal treasures from careless tourists become seemingly lost into the Earth. They sit and wait for hunters with the patience, stamina, and modern metal detecting equipment.
9. The Allies Begin Italian Campaign
In 1943, the Allied Forces began the Italian Campaign of World War II which lasted until the end of the war. It is estimated around 220,000 soldiers died in Italy during that time. The beach could be riddled with shrapnel, bullet casings, firearms, and any other metallic personal items carried by soldiers on all sides. Find out if Jury finds anything in slide #8.
8. The Metal Detector Turns Into A Time Machine
Jury’s metal detector began to alert him of something buried below the surface of the sand. He began to dig until he came upon an item worn by every U.S. soldier. Something that could identify injured and fallen soldiers that included basic medical information including blood type and history of inoculations.
7. Who Was This Mystery Soldier?
Bennie Howard, Jr. from Wendell, North Carolina was deeply engraved on the worn out tags. Who was this soldier? Was he KIA while bravely fighting the enemy in the heat of battle? Had it simply fallen off while he was getting a little “R&R” in between long marches? Jury set out to find this artifact’s story. See if he is able to locate the dog tags owner in slide #6.
6. Connected By The World Wide Web
With billions of people on social media, Jury found the Town of Wendell on Facebook and told them about the lost dog tags, says town spokesperson Patrick Reidy. They told him Bennie Howard, Jr. was still alive and living in New Bern. The dog tags would finally be with the veteran again soon.
5. 72 Years In Ago…
Howard, now 92-years-old, had been dropped onto that beach near Florence, Italy in 1943 when he was a mere 19 years old. Howard believed his Army-issued dog tags had been lost forever and said the odds of someone finding it in that time span is “almost something impossible.”
4. How To Transport the Priceless Artifact?
Galli could have mailed the dog tags, but after so many years it would have been a shame if they got lost somewhere across the globe. He knew the only fitting end to this story would be to fly across the Atlantic Ocean and deliver the dog tags by hand.
3. Around The World Hand Delivery
Galli purchased his roundtrip tickets to North Carolina for the Town of Wendell’s Independence Day festivities, celebrating the 240th birthday of America. Howard and Galli were both honored by citizens of all ages from the town. “It’s a beautiful moment for me. I remember all my life this moment,” admitted Galli.
2. A Priceless Heirloom Returned
A dog tag is not made of gold or silver and holds no major monetary value. It’s worth is only to the person who made the sacrifice to possibly give up his life so that others can live in freedom. Read what Howard said about the moment in slide #1.
1. Remembering A Hero
Howard was able to give the treasure hunter his gratitude in person and received a well-deserved recognition for his services in World War II from the entire town. He was overwhelmed by the show of support he said, “People have been so nice and they all thanked us for what we did.”
This story gives us a perfect example of how we can benefit from the increased use of social media. Let it serve as a reminder that Facebook is more than just a place where people can argue, focus on their disagreements and become bitter old trolls. It can be a place where humanity connects us in a real way by virtual means.
Bennie Howard, Jr. was able to reconnect to a time in history that was almost lost. With the help of a new friend from a different side of the world who speaks a completely different language, he is able to share that moment in history with generations to come.