When Mario Gandolfo went for a walk along the Pacific Ocean shoreline in Nome, Alaska on Nov. 4, he was looking for sea glass. But he found something quite different: A World War II military dog tag washed into his hand.
“I was just kind of taken aback,” Gandolfo told 24 Hour News 8 Sunday via Skype.
The dog tag, which is about 70 years old, belonged to an Earl L. Vogelar. It had a Grand Rapids, Mich. address stamped on it.
Gandolfo decided he had to know more about Vogelar and wanted to find his family to give them the ocean-battered piece of metal.
“This was someone’s life in World War II,” he said.
He posted a picture of the dog tag on Facebook and searched online, but he couldn’t find any of Vogelar’s family members.
24 Hour News 8 saw his post and stepped in to help.
“I was hoping to get this to this man’s family by Veterans Day, which is just around the corner,” Gandolfo said. “I want to get this back to his immediate family — his cousin, his grandson, possibly his son, someone who is of his blood where this rightfully belongs. And I’m sure now that you guys are on the case that’s going to happen.”
24 Hour News 8 was able to find out some more about Vogelar: Online service records showed he was born in 1922, enlisted in Alma on Nov. 21, 1942 and served the duration of World War II, plus another six months. More online searching showed he appeared to have died in 1994.
But finding his family members wasn’t quite so easy. So 24 Hour News 8 used our Facebook page to ask West Michigan for help, and it paid off. Within an hour, viewers had tagged one of Vogelar’s relatives and a family member soon gave 24 Hour News 8 a call.
“I was like, ‘Wow,'” said Vogelar’s grandson Dustin Vogelar.
He never met his grandfather because of a family feud, but he does have some photos.
“It would have been nice to meet him and see what we had in common,” he said.
Vogelar said his grandfather came back home after the war and confirmed he died in 1994.
He has no idea how the dog tag got lost, but he said he does know his grandfather was stationed in Alaska for a few years during WWII.
24 Hour News 8 set up a Skype meeting between Gandolfo and Vogelar.
“I’m so grateful. Thank you,” Vogelar said.