By Daniel Gilbert, Oklahoma City Recruiting BattalionMay 17, 2013
Loose change, keys and laundry, losing our belongings seems as inevitable as aging. But could you imagine one of those missing socks you wrote off actually finding its way back to you after 70 years? Neither could Alvin Krumrey.
In 1943, while serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the island of Guadalcanal, Krumrey lost his first issued dog tag. Though he thought he would never see it again, this piece of identification would eventually travel across the world and return to his possession.
The little piece of metal's journey back to Krumrey began at Guadalcanal, the largest of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean where a local islander discovered the dog tag and took it to a rare coin store owned by New Zealander Judi Handscomb and her daughter Caron MacDonald. Although the metal is worn from age, the imprint is still completely legible. The shop purchased the tag, which not only includes Krumrey's full name, but also his rank, Army series number, tetanus shot identifier, a next of kin name and hometown.
Handscomb, who resides in Australia, decided to take the dog tag home with her in hope of finding its owner. Her father served in World War II and she felt a connection and somewhat of a responsibility to get it back to Krumrey or at least his family.
Several years ago Handscomb had met Robert "Wade" MacElwain while he was conducting World War II research in the Solomon Islands. Handscomb contacted MacElwain and sent him photos of the dog tag. MacElwain then went to military archives and found a copy of Krumrey's service record showing his place of enlistment to be Tulsa, Okla.
MacElwain next found an obituary for a Mrs. Krumrey whose memorial service was handled by the Paul Thomas Funeral Home of Miami, Okla. MacElwain called the funeral home to find her next of kin. The funeral home could not disclose the information to MacElwain, but put him in contact with Roy Woods, who is in charge of military veteran funeral details for the local American Legion.
After conversing with MacElwain, Woods was able to locate the dog tag's original owner in about four hours. Turns out that Krumrey and Woods live a few blocks from each other.
"I went over and asked Alvin if he would like to have his dog tag back and he said, 'I sure would!'" said Woods.
Woods soon notified MacElwain and Handscomb and the tag was shipped to him from Australia, a voyage that took four weeks due to the metal having to pass through customs.
Woods said he wanted its return to be a memorable event for Krumrey. "Once I had the dog tag I wanted to have a local Army recruiter present it," said Woods.
Both a Vietnam veteran and prior U.S. Navy recruiter zone supervisor, Woods contacted the local Army recruiting office and the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion headquarters to request representation. Tulsa Recruiting Company Commander Capt. Matthew Wimmer and Claremore Recruiting Center Commander Sgt. 1st Class Billie Montgomery were eager to assist.
"Being retired military I know how important it is that we take care of our own. In civilian jobs you can work for a company four or five years and once you leave that job, you're history, they forget your name. Well, it's not like that with the military. These gentlemen [Wimmer and Montgomery] are here today because they care, not just about the ones they're trying to enlist, but the ones who have served their time," said Woods.
After sharing the dog tag's remarkable history with a room full of Krumrey's family, friends, fellow veterans and city officials, Woods introduced Wimmer for the tag's official reunion with Krumrey.
"I'm honored to be here and grateful for the invitation to be a part of this event. This is something important, people like Mr. Krumrey paved the way for me, Sgt. 1st Class Montgomery, and others like us to serve," said Wimmer.
Wimmer then placed the dog tag in Krumrey's hand thanking him for his service. After a 70-year separation, the tag was finally held by Krumrey again Jan. 30.
Krumrey, who at 91 years old still has mobility and a sharp mind, stood proud but humbled by all the applause.
"I can't believe it; it's been 70 years. I didn't realize I was important. Thank you," said Krumrey.
Wimmer replied that he is very important, "Without you and your brothers in arms we wouldn't be here."
Woods then read a card sent from Handscomb and her daughter expressing how happy they were Krumrey was receiving his dog tag back.
When asked what he would do with the dog tag, Krumrey mentioned putting it in a locked drawer for safekeeping.