By Morgan Moran
Last weekend, I was walking down my street in a Washington, D.C. suburb and found an old military dog tag in the middle of the road.
It looked pretty old, so I assumed it probably holds a lot of value for the owner and his family.
I decided I would try to track down the owner and do my best to return the keepsake.
It took me a while to decipher the name, as the tag was green with tarnish and misshapen from time.
I could make up the name Victor E. Muniec, Jr., plus some numbers which probably designated his battalion and provided additional identification.
Had I found this piece if history before the age of the Internet, I might not have ever found him.
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But luckily, thanks to Google, I found an old registry from the U.S. Naval Commands, which listed his name along with an address just a few blocks from my house.
I also found his obituary, which announced that he had passed away in April of 2012, at the ripe old age of 87. I learned that Mr. Muniec had been a radio operator with the 53rd Battalion in World War II.
He held a Master’s from Boston University and had worked as an information specialist in the Office of International Cooperation and Development at the Department of Agriculture, working with foreign countries to share new agriculture technology practices.
But what was most interesting to me was his passion for his community.
My search found that he had served on several civic associations in my city, supporting efforts to improve life for its citizens.
Mr. Muniec’s obituary noted that he and his wife were “lifelong advocates of historic preservation,” and requested that donations be made in his name to the local historical society. It was this fact that reassured me that I was doing the right thing; that it was important to return this piece of history to its proper place.
Thankfully, the obituary also listed the names of his children. I tracked down the contact info of his daughter, who still lives in the area, and gave her a call.
I was worried that I had contacted the wrong person, or that she wouldn’t care about maintaining her father’s legacy.
Instead, she was surprised and grateful. She said she had been meaning to send the dog tag and her father’s flag to her brother, but she had lost it and didn’t know if she would ever see it again. I placed it in an envelope and mailed it to her address that afternoon.
We will probably never learn how the military ID mysteriously moved from Mr. Muniec’s daughter’s house to the middle of my street, but from the strange ordeal I gained a greater appreciation for historic preservation, our veterans, and the wealth of knowledge at our fingertips via the internet.
Morgan Moran is a global health advocate and policy professional in Washington, D.C. She graduated from the University of Alabama in 2015, where she studied Political Science, Public Health, and Global Studies.
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Cover Photo Credit: Sarah Bresnahan/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)