Veterans

How this Vietnam vet's long lost dog tag resurfaced in Hurricane Irma debris

After serving in the US Navy during the Vietnam War, George Platt faithfully wore his identification tag -- informally known as a "dog tag."


Like every other member of the military, he was originally issued two, but at some point one went missing.

The other one, however, was always with him throughout most of his adult life.

"He had it with him when I first met him," said his wife of 30 years, Sheila Platt. The couple met in 1983.

Wikimedia Commons photo by Linda Makiej.

Years later, sometime after George Platt was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease, the lone tag that he'd worn for so long disappeared.

"I just assumed when I didn't see it that he put it somewhere in the house, and I would come across it," said Shelia Platt. "I never did, and I stopped thinking about it."

Her husband died in 2014 at the age of 67 and she gave his clothing to Goodwill. But she did not find the tag.

Three years passed, and then something happened. Something "amazing."

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Chain of events

William "Biff" Trimble served in the US Air Force in Southeast Asia about the same time as George Platt.

Today, he volunteers with Disabled American Veterans Chapter 86, driving veterans to medical appointments. As a result, he sometimes has one of the DAV vans parked outside his home.

That fact provided a critical link in the chain of events that was to follow.

On a recent weekend, Trimble's regular postal carrier was making Express Mail deliveries in the vicinity of Bing's Landing. Hurricane Irma had swept through and left behind a lot of street debris there. By chance, the carrier spotted a small metal rectangle in the debris and picked it up.

Logo for Disabled American Veterans.

It was a military dog tag belonging to George Platt.

The carrier had the tag with her as she drove her regular route when she spotted the DAV van parked in Trimble's driveway. She approached Trimble and his wife, showed them the dog tag and said, "I found this on the street; is there anything you can do?"

Trimble accepted the tag and took it to the DAV post, where he gave it to chapter treasurer Larry Rekart.

Rekart checked the chapter's membership records, but did not find George Platt there. So he turned to the telephone directory.

Photo from Flickr user Jamie.

Home again

At a time when many people rely solely on cell phones and the telephone white pages are shrinking, the Platts' number was still listed. Sheila Platt had never changed it.

The day the phone rang, she had just returned home after having evacuated because of the storm. It marked the conclusion of an unhappy two weeks for Shelia Platt. She had evacuated just two days after attending her mother's funeral.

When she answered the phone, the voice at the other end asked to speak with her husband.

She said simply that he wasn't there, so the caller -- it was Rekart -- asked if he was speaking with Mrs. Platt.

A Coast Guard flood punt team assists with search and rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. USCG courtesy photo by Chief Warrant Officer Andrew Matthews.

She admits becoming irritated at first but what Rekart said next surprised her. Someone had found her husband's dog tag and she could pick it up at the DAV office.

She wanted to tell someone about this incredible development, but her confidant had always been her mother. She wondered: "Who do I call for this? Who do I call to tell this story to?"

She settled on her husband's niece. Then, by chance, the man who served as best man at the Platts' wedding texted her to find out if she'd returned from her evacuation, so she called him.

"I said, 'You will not believe this story,'" she said.

At last, Sheila Platt went to the DAV office to retrieve the missing ID. It was an emotional moment.

"I hadn't cried over him in a long time," she said, "and when I came here, I started."

Tag trek

Bing's Landing is almost nine-and-a-half miles from the Platt home. And it's on the opposite side of the Matanzas River. By Sheila Platt's account, her husband wouldn't have gone there.

So, how did his dog tag end up so far from home?

A Marine from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment slides his hand down a pair of dog tags as he hangs them upon the pedestal on Marine Corps Base Hawaii. USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Matthew Bragg.

It was a source of speculation when she met with members of the DAV. One person asked if her house had ever been robbed, but she said no. Another asked if she had given any of her husband's clothing away, and she remembered the Goodwill.

Today, she wonders if the tag had been in a pocket she hadn't checked before donating the clothing. Still, that may be as close as she ever gets to solving the mystery.

Sheila keeps the tag on a fob for now and plans to do something more permanent with it eventually.

George Platt, she said, "was just a great guy; he was a great husband."

The tag, she added, was "something that was important to him. The fact that he lost it or whatever I attribute to the Alzheimer's. Because it was something that he always kept with him."

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