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Anderson family receives dog tags after they were lost in World War II

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Staff Sergeant Jackson McGill served in the United States Army during World War II, and lost his dog tags in France 78 years ago.

On Monday, his family was finally reunited with them after a graveside ceremony on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Karen McGill Young is Jackson McGill’s eldest child and only daughter. She happily accepted the dog tags from the French Department of the American Legion on June 19 in Anderson.

“I think it was wonderful that they even remembered to send it to us let alone bring the dog tags to us,” Young said.

It took over 30 years for the dog tags to make their way back to the McGill family. A gardener near Amiens, France, found them, and carried them on him until he could find an American to help him return the missing tags.

That is where Valerie Prehoda, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Marine Corps, was able to assist. She personally delivered the dog tags after the French gardener gave them to her at a 2021 American Legion event.

“The gardener of the chateau came up to me with a dog tag and said he had been holding on to it for over 30 years wanting to hopefully maybe find an American someday that he could give that dog tag to that might be able to return it to the family,” Prehoda said.

The ceremony was emotional for the family, knowing a stranger in France chose to honor McGill for over 30 years.

“I think that it was great that that gentleman put it in his billfold and carried it for 30 years when it was somebody else’s dog tag,” Young said.

The family decided McGill’s middle grandson Matthew McGill would inherit the tags after spending time researching the veteran’s time serving in World War II.

“It’s more clues. He was so secretive,” Matthew said. “I think he was protecting us from what he dealt with in WWII. So, everything we know is from letters (sent to) his brother. And we didn’t know he was hurt. This was informative to us.”

Matthew shared with News 8 that his grandfather was in three plane crashes during the war, and was the only survivor twice.