WENDELL, N.C. (WNCN) – A World War II veteran was reunited with a special piece of history he dropped on an Italian beach more than 70 years ago.
On America’s 240th birthday, a small town celebration has a big meaning for one of the nation’s oldest veterans.
Bennie Howard Jr., 92, thought he would never live to see the day he’d hold his dog tags in his hand again.
Dropped on a beach near Florence, Italy when he was 19 years old, Howard said he thought the tag was gone forever, until a metal detector, a man from Italy, and Facebook reunited them.
“I was surprised because after the time span, it’s almost something impossible,” Howard said.
Jury Galli, an Italian citizen, was searching for buried treasure on an Italian beach last year when he found Howard’s missing dog tag.
Galli contacted the Town of Wendell and Facebook – and the rest is history.
“About 10 months ago we got a random Facebook post from Mr. Galli and it said, ‘I found this dog tag. It says Wendell, North Carolina on it. I started researching and found out Mr. Howard was still alive and living in New Bern,” said Patrick Reidy with the Town of Wendell.
Galli doesn’t speak much English, but he said he knew mailing the dog tags wouldn’t be enough.
Instead, he paid for a trip to the United States so he could hand deliver them to Howard.
“It’s a beautiful moment for me. I remember, all my life, this moment,” Galli said.
The Town of Wendell honored the two during their Fourth of July parade.
Howard, who is always full of patriotic pride, said the small piece of metal gives this year’s holiday an even bigger meaning. He said he appreciates his hometown joining in the celebration.
“Our town motto is ‘Small town, big charm,’ and I think you can see that everyone is showing big charm,” Reidy said.