The family of a World War II veteran will finally be getting back the man's dog tags that were lost nearly 70 years ago. All thanks to a 9-year-old boy.
This Monday, the boy, Lenny Aydemir, will present the long-lost tags to the family of Jack B. Robbins (who misplaced the set while fighting in France) at a school Veterans Day assembly in Medina, Ohio.
Lenny, who moved from France to Ohio with his family two years ago, was given the dog tags last year by his maternal uncle. According to his mom, Deborah Aydemir, her brother had been holding on to the tags after receiving them from a family friend 10 years ago and failing in his attempt to locate the Robbins family and return them. Upon receiving the dog tags and learning where they had come from, Lenny declared, "Let’s find the family," Deborah tells Yahoo Shine.
More on Yahoo Shine: Returning Marines Get the Homecoming Surprise of Their LivesSo how did the third grader do it? His online search led him to Jackie Flannery, board member and researcher for the Lacey-Davis Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families honor soldiers lost during World War II. Flannery is in the process of researching the 368th Fighter Group, which counted Robbins as a member, for a book project. “I have a passion and a love for World War II pilots,” Flannery tells Yahoo Shine, and notes that she was surprised to get the boy's email in September but immediately replied to his message and began corresponding with him. In the process, she helped Lenny put together the story of Robbins's life, which is now a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation that he'll share at the upcoming school assembly. The presentation includes Robbins's story of being shot down in 1944 in France. After a local family found him, they hid him at their home until he was discovered and made a prisoner of war. Robbins eventually returned to the U.S., but died in 1969 in a drowning accident.
The highlight of the event will be Lenny finally getting to hand over the tags to members of the Robbins family, who are flying in from Colorado and Texas. “I feel a little scared, but I feel really good,” Lenny tells Yahoo Shine. “It will be really cool to see the smile on their face when I give the dog tags to them.”
In attendance will be Robbins's daughter-in-law, granddaughter, great-granddaughter, great-grandson, and a 73-year-old nephew. The 300-plus-assembly audience will also include Flannery, the third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade classes at Ralph E. Waite Elementary School, as well as local veterans, including the man the school is named after, World War II veteran Ralph Waite.
“I’m truly convinced that this little boy should be telling this story,” Robbins's nephew, Marcus Tucker, tells Yahoo Shine. “We are reaching out to the great-grandchildren of Jack, and this is the generation that needs to hear it.”
More on Yahoo Shine: Veteran Returns Stolen Photo After 70-YearsLittle Lenny will also be the recipient of something special at the ceremony. According to school principal Cindy Grice, the local Army-Navy store has offered to craft a replica set of Robbins’ dog tags for Lenny that vet Ralph Waite will present to him at the ceremony. “It’s a surprise for Lenny,” Grice tells Yahoo Shine, and notes that sharing Robbins's story is a way to help make Veterans Day more real for today’s kids. “It’s an opportunity to show the meaning behind military service.”