WEST BEND, Wis. — Lost for about 70 years, dog tags found with a metal detector in Colorado by a stranger have been returned to the family of a Washington County veteran.
Mary Seiser of West Bend was contacted Feb. 2 with an unexpected text message, which read, "Hi, my name is Major Zachariah Fike, U.S. Army, texting about your father, Franklin H. Schwamb. His dog tags were found 21 years ago at Camp Hale, Colorado, and the man who found them would like to return them to your family."
Seiser told the Daily News that she was first wary that the message was a part of a scam, but the text message aligned with her father's history in the Army, since he served with the 38th Field Artillery Indian Head Division.
After researching online and finding the nonprofit organization, Purple Hearts Reunited, she was sure it was true.
Purple Hearts Reunited focuses on returning lost or stolen medals to veterans and military families.
Seiser later learned a man named Jason Homola found the dog tags.
"He contacted (Fike) from Colorado, saying he had found these dog tags like 20 years ago and tossed them into a drawer because he couldn't find the owner," Seiser said. "So he contacted Major Fike to help him, and he found me. He checked my dad's obituary, he found that online, and then he found my name because I'm the oldest of the five (children)."
Seiser had Fike send her photos to verify it was her father's name and Army number on the dog tags. From there Fike set up a meeting for her with Mike Brennan from McFarland, a partner who helps with the project.
"He called me around Memorial Day, so I said 'Why don't we meet at the old courthouse in West Bend,'" Seiser said. "Veterans Park is the perfect place, he wanted to see the monuments and things, actually my grandfather's name is on that Doughboy statue, because he served in World War I. So that's where we met and he gave me the dog tags."
Seiser said it was a shock because the dog tags were lost around 1946.
"He hand-wrote his history a couple years ago which was really sweet of him, but he said after his training in North Carolina he went to Seattle and they sent him right away to Camp Carson, Colorado," she said. "And there they had mountain climbing, ski training and snowshoe training. They slept in two-men tents at 35 degrees below zero, when they had their ski training, in seven-layer sleeping bags.
They were on the Continental Divide while they were at Camp Carson, apparently they did their ski training at Camp Hale, and Camp Hale is where this guy found his dog tags when he was out with his metal detector one day."
Schwamb was from Richfield and moved to West Bend, where he graduated high school in 1944. His wife and him later retired in Waupaca.
Schwamb died Jan. 7, 2017. He was 89, five months shy of his 90th birthday.
Seiser said it's shocking to know this memorabilia was found because it was 70 years ago and her father wasn't even married yet.
“Once I did the research on this Major Fike and decided he was legitimate I told my siblings,” She said. “There are five of us, they were all excited and couldn’t believe it. And the fact that they sat in his drawer for 20 years and he didn’t throw them away or something ... so we were just delighted when he agreed to send them to us, it was fun to pick them up.”