FISHERS, Ind. - A dog tag belonging to a Hoosier hero who fought in World War II has been returned to his family.
It all started with a group of friends in France who dig along the beaches to find dog tags that belong to soldiers who were part of the Normandy Invasion. One of their latest finds were linked to a Fishers family who got a piece of history in the mail that they couldn't believe.
"Enclosed you will find your uncle's dog tag. I was honored and excited to have the opportunity to travel to Normandy on May 3rd to meet with Alban," said John Payne as he read the letter that accompanied the dog tag.
A piece of his family history in his hands. More than 70-years-later, a moment he never expected.
"Alban and his team have a passion for honoring our American soldiers that once liberated our land," the letter read.
The group of friends from France digs along the beaches in Normandy in hopes of unearthing dog tags worn by soldiers who landed there during World War II.
They were having a hard time returning the tags to families in America. That's when they turned to social media and met a history lover, Lisa from Georgia, who researches the families and returns the tags. She put together the Payne family tree and found John's wife on Facebook.
"Something as personal as a dog tag, that was connected to him and laid in the sand in the dirt for so many year,s and happening at this time of year where we're all thinking about the military where and people who served and who have served. It was just kind of gob smacked both of us...we couldn't believe it," Sue Payne said.
Sue captured the moment John opened the package. Holding the tag took him back to the stories he heard as a young boy about Uncle Blaine's service.
"He actually almost got captured. He had to hide out for 24 hours in the brush and then made his getaway and then he was later shot and injured taken to the hospital in France," John said.
He received a Purple Heart for his valor. The family says uncle Blaine never talked about the war when he came home. But years later, people like this group are still thanking soldiers like him for his service.
Blaine returned to his farm is Russiaville and worked as an excise officer after his honorable discharge. He passed away in 2008. His family says the dog tag will complete the war memorabilia they have for their uncle.