A small piece of history, and of Robert Gaines' identity, has been returned to him more than 70 years after he served his country in Europe during World War II.
The 97-year-old Virginia man long wondered he'd lost his Army dog tag. He enlisted at age 19 and his first military job was driving a truck in Italy. That's where he figured it had been misplaced.
His children often heard stories about how Gaines lost his official military ID while toiling in what to them was an ancient war. They didn't much about the tag until they were contacted by an Italian family.
They had found the ID buried in their garden in Italy. Since the 1980s, they had been trying to find the owner but had no luck. But after new technology emerged, they were able to track down some members of the Gaines family in upstate New York.
And they contacted Gaines' grown children in Norfolk, where the tag was mailed.
Their dad doesn't remember things well at his advanced age. But his eyes lit up when he was handed the piece of metal bearing his name, rank, blood type and serial number.
"At this particular point he doesn't realize a lot of things," explained Gaines' son, Frankie. "But just to see him hold onto those dog tags and reflect on the things that he does remember. I was really exciting to me. It means a lot."