GREENWOOD, Ind. – In the midst of World War II, 17-year-old Bob Brunnemer was anxious to help the war effort by enlisting in the Marine Corps. The Indianapolis teenager went from Southport High School to the South Pacific. He brought back countless memories and pride in his service.
"Ah let’s see,” said Brunnemer as he opened up his foot locker filled with memorabilia.
He's just shy of his 92nd birthday, now living in Greenwood.
"These are things that happened in the service,” he said while sifting through old paperwork.
The insides of a wooden box piece together Brunnemer's history in the war – everything from his enlistment papers to an old grenade, along with his old duffel bag and hat, which doesn't quite fit as it used to.
"It's real but it don’t fit,” Brunnemer said with a laugh as he put his hat back on.
Each item of memorabilia in the box carries a special story that holds a special significance to Brunnemer and his family.
“It's not the thing itself. It’s what it is," Brunnemer said. "Or what it was.”
The collection is a Christmas gift from Brunnemer’s son Bobby. The foot locker was painted and converted into Bobby's toy box when he was a kid. He thought it was only fitting that he restored it, and filled it with everything he could find from his father’s military service.
However, his father’s marine jacket was nowhere to be found.
"I assumed it was somewhere in the attic and I was surprised when it was gone and he explained what had happened,” Bobby Brunnemer said.
Years ago, Brunnemar let some neighborhood kids borrow the jacket as a Halloween costume. However, those kids moved and the jacket was never returned.
"Where it went I did not know," Brunnemer said before cracking a smile. "Until just recently.”
A few months ago, Bobby received a message on Facebook from a man in Norway. The message asked Bobby if he knew of a Marine with the initials R. Brunnemer.
"When I was contacted, I was of course suspicious," Bobby said. "'How did you reach me and why?'”
But the Norwegian soon explained the story, and Bobby was amazed
"I'm a collector of U.S. Marine World War II uniforms,” said Eirik Oftedal over video chat from his home in Norway.
Oftedal went on to explain how he bought the jacket on eBay from a seller in Canada. When he received it, he noticed a name in the armpit, along with two $0.60 tickets to the Indiana Theater.
“I always research jackets because they are almost always named on the armpit,” Oftedal said.
However, this was the first time he was able to make contact with a family member.
“It was really amazing, I had never been so lucky before,” he said.
Skeptical at first, Bobby knew it was his father's jacket and arranged for Oftedal to ship it to Indiana.
"The Indiana and the name… it was too much to be a coincidence,” Bobby said.
Not long after, the newly refurbished jacket arrived back home in Indiana. The missing piece of his history is now back where it belongs and in the hands of the brave veteran who once wore it decades ago.
"It feels like what it should," Brunnemer said as he tried on the jacket. “It feels like it should."