On December 12, 2006, I discovered by chance that my great-uncle, Angelo S. Viale's, WWII dog tag had been found on New Georgia Island. He had fought on Guadalcanal, New Georgia, and Luzon while in Company L of the 161st Infantry Regiment/25th Infantry Division. https://www.25thida.org/
A wonderful WWII Navy veteran, Joe E. Gunterman (U.S.S. Zane), https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/139423096/joseph-e.-gunterman went above and beyond trying to help our family get it back. His kindness inspired me to begin "paying it forward" to other families across the country. If you have some free time, please visit Joe's memorial. He was my buddy and I'll never forget how his random act of kindness changed the course of my life. I wouldn't be the person I am today if it wasn't for Joe. Not long after finding out from the article Joe had written that my Uncle Angelo's tag had been found, I put up a website and named my volunteer organization Angelo's Angels in memory of my Uncle Angelo. To read the much more detailed story of the course of events that led to the creation of Angelo's Angels, you can visit this profile page: https://www.pacificwrecks.com/people/authors/cumero/index.html To the left, you will see a photo of Uncle Angelo's grave marker in Arlington National Cemetery. My beloved Aunt Annie, his wife rests alongside him. Special thanks to my dear friend (and fellow Italian American!) Pete Donatucci for taking that photo in December 2017. He was kind enough to visit my aunt and uncle's grave to pay respects on my behalf. I'd also like to thank the grandson of WWII veteran, John Ankeny, who also visited Arlington and sent me photos.
I'd like to thank all the people who have a desire to return the items they have to their rightful owners. It's a team effort, from start to finish!
The answer to this question varies, depending on the age of a veteran, whether he is living or deceased, etc. When researching WWII veterans, there are many sites available to the general public that we use. If the veteran is in the Army, we look up his WWII Army Enlistment contract on the Access to Archival database, and use the information in that document to look up further information on ancestry.com. The main site we use for research is ancestry.com. Sometimes we can locate helpful information just by using the Google search engine. If the veteran was in the Navy or the Marine Corps, muster roll records are available on ancestry.com and sometimes they provide us with clues that assist us in going further with the research. Sadly, most of the WWII veterans we research these days are no longer alive, so we often use obituaries to locate the names of their relatives. We've also gotten assistance from hundreds of dedicated librarians, historians, amateur genealogists, and Find a Gravers over the years. Each "case" we work on is different, so the techniques we use vary, but I suppose the short answer is, we use genealogy techniques to locate relatives, and then we search Facebook and www.whitepages.com for current contact information. Sometimes returns can be accomplished very quickly, and sometimes they take a lot more patience and perseverance.
To be honest, I've lost count, but I estimate that we've assisted with close to 1,000 returns in the last 10 years. We also volunteer our time performing research for division associations and authors to help them get in touch with veterans or their relatives so that our veteran's stories can be told.
Absolutely not! We don't accept donations, we don't have sponsors, and we aren't paid by the government, either. Finders pay the shipping fees to send the tags home, and families are never asked for money in exchange for getting the items back. Our goal is to honor veterans and bring joy to their families. The reward we receive is knowing we've helped reunite a precious item with a veteran or his family. I've had the privilege of meeting hundreds of kind-hearted people from all over the world who go above and beyond trying to return the items they've found to the veterans or their families.
The main reason is that I feel that families are the ones who are best equipped to tell their own stories. The other reason is that I was using an old website format in the past and it was difficult for me to add new content to my website. The new website style I've finally upgraded to has made it much easier for me to add content. If you are someone who was contacted by Angelo's Angels and had an item returned, we'd love to help you tell your story. So, please write your story, include photos if you 'd like, and I'll publish it here. We love to hear how dog tag returns have had a positive impact on people's lives. Knowing we're making a difference is why we continue to work hard to help reunite lost items with veterans and their families.