ANDERSON, Ind. — A family in Anderson brought home a cherished and lost piece of their family history on Monday afternoon.
Sgt. Jackson McGill served in World War II and his family has now received his military dog tag lost in France nearly 80 years ago.
Sgt. McGill would have turned 100 on Monday. He passed away a little more than two decades ago, but now his family feels blessed that his memory still lives on after that long-lost piece of his legacy returned home.
Nearly 8 decades after the WWII vet’s B17 crashed over France, family members like grandson Matthew Mcgill are baffled that little piece of copper and nickel are still around.
“We started wondering,” Matthew McGill began describing. “How in the world did they find this little thing?
A French gardener gave it to Valerie Prehoda in 2021 while with her American Legion team in France. Prehoda is a retired LtCol. with the United States Marines. She now serves as the Vice Commander for the American Legion Department of France.
Prehoda said she and her team were working on another mission in 2021 to recover the remains of the pilot of the B17 that had crashed. While she and her team were having a barbecue, she said the property owner’s Gardner had something to give her.
“I looked at it and went, ‘oh my god, this is an American dog tag,'” Prehoda described. “‘Where did you find it?’ And he said he had found it in his garden some 30 years ago.”
Prehoda said returning it to family became an immediate priority.
“The minute he gave me that dog tag, I just started shaking,” Prehoda said. “Because I realized, I’m a veteran myself, I have my dog tag. I knew how important that would be to a family.”
As children and grandchildren gathered Monday afternoon, they could not be more thankful.
” To think they knew it was special and wanted to make sure a family member got it,” McGill’s oldest daughter Karen said.
All these years since he passed, it almost felt like a part of him is still here, family said.
“I started to think about the people that we’ve lost that I would’ve liked to been here,” Matthew McGill said. “And we’re just so proud of him. We’re proud of everything he did.”
Karen McGill said she felt humbled to now hold this piece of her father’s life in her hand.
“I think it’s wonderful, but I don’t get to hold onto it very long,” she laughed.
Karen McGill said she is ready to pass her father’s legacy onward to her nephew Matthew.
“I have a museum at home that I put his memorabilia in,” Matthew said. “And to have the dog tag means a lot. It’s the thing you want in your little museum to remember your grandpa by.”
The Mcgill family says they feel like this whole experience will bring them closer together.
Meanwhile, Valerie Prehoda received a Certificate of Recognition from the French Honorary Consulate in Indiana for her effort. She also received recognition from Gov. Holcomb, who deemed her an honorary Hoosier.