A military tag once carried by a World Ward II soldier from Ravenna made its way back to Portage County recently, thanks to a woman who was visiting Ohio from out of state.
Bruce Smith said he’s not sure how long the tag, which belonged to his late father, Clarence, had been missing. But Nina Wunsch, who found the tag in a box of trinkets she picked up at the Canfield Swap Meet, said she was determined to return the tag once she realized what it was.
“I knew the dog tag needed to go home,” she said.
Smith said his father, who died in 1977, served in World War II along with his brother. Once home, he never spoke about his wartime experiences, and neither did his brother.
“He said after what he went through, he wouldn’t talk about it either,” he said. Smith also remembered that his father never wanted to own a gun after his military service.
Smith’s mother, Emma, who had turned over her Lake Rockwell Road home to her son years ago, died in 2017. At that time, Smith and his sister, Becky Reedy, went through their mother’s belongings and found a single dog tag from their father’s military service. They knew that their father had been issued two tags, but assumed that one of them had been discarded.
Wunsch, who lives in upstate New York, said she visits the Canfield Swap Meet every spring and fall to find car parts for an eBay business. Some time ago, she picked up a box of trinkets from an elderly man, who had “bundled” several items together.
She put the box aside for about a year, but once she found the tag, she knew she had to find the owner or a member of his family. The tag was stamped with Clarence Smith’s name, along with that of his mother, Anna, the man’s serial number and their hometown of Ravenna.
Upon discovering that a military tag was inside, she first called her local Veterans Affairs office, then started calling officials in Ravenna. She looked up Clarence Smith in the local telephone listings and found a listing in his name, but the number had been disconnected after his widow died.
She ended her search at the Portage County Veterans Services office, which sent the tag to Bruce Smith, along with a holiday card from Wunsch.
“I said, 'I’ve got to see if I can find his family,' ” she said.
Smith said he is not sure what he will do with the tag. His sister has one of her father’s tags, while he has the other.
“I think it’s a wonderful thing she did,” he said. “Most people wouldn’t know what to do with something like that.”
Wunsch, a native of Canada, moved to the United States as a teenager. Once she became a U.S. citizen, she immersed herself in the history of her adopted homeland. She became “kind of a World War II buff” after meeting a boyfriend’s father, who had served in the war.
Wunsch said she believes she’s not the only one to find a missing dog tag, and encouraged others to return the artifacts to the families who lost them.
“If anyone ever finds dog tags, there is a way to get them home,” she said.