HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Maui visitor discovered dog tags hidden in the sand for 70 years and made it his mission to return the buried treasure. Oregon Coast Guard Vet Dave Rocheleau vacations on Maui every year and likes to snoop in the sands of Kaanapali with his metal detector.
Three years ago, he uncovered a World War II dog tag and decided to track down the owner's family. "Time went by and this dog tag was laying on my desk by my computer" explains Rocheleau. "Every month or two I'd look at it. It was like the thing was talking to me. It just wouldn't leave me alone."
That's when Dave decided to do some snooping online. He went to his computer and found a website called ww2tags.org. It's a website devoted to finding the rightful owners of dog tags.
Angelo's Angels was started by a California woman in honor of her Uncle Angelo. Francesca Cumero started searching for his missing dog tags in 2006. Since then, she's teamed up with a genealogist to make 2-hundred connections. Cumero says, "I started researching how many dog tags are being found all over the world and found there's quite a few."
Francesca's "tag team" tracked down EJ Pappert's daughter Kathy Bussa in Michigan. He died long before he could walk her down the aisle, but at her own daughter's wedding in August, came a surprise call from Rocheleau.
Here's how he describes their conversation, "When I read her the name on the dog tag, she just kind of came unglued. She said My god, that's my father. She felt so strongly that this was a message from her father that he was there in spirit."
Bussa got goose bumps. She gets emotional holding it talking about what it means to get it back after all these years. "He sent it to me" says a choked up Bussa. "This is my Dad's dog tag. It was buried in the sand in Hawaii for 70 years. He sent it to me. Pretty amazing."
Rocheleau will be back on Maui in April, scanning the sand with his metal detector. He's always asked if he's found anything worth a lot of money. This was one find you can't put a price tag on.
You can volunteer to help with the backlog of dog tag searches. Genealogy background's a plus.
For more information, call Francesca Cumero, founder of Angelo's Angels at 815-677-1480 or visit www.ww2tags.org