Saying goodbye to a loved one shipping off to war hurts. You want to be supportive of his or her honorable decision to protect America, but at the same, you’re worried and sad.
You hope and pray the mission is successful and that your loved one returns home safely. The wait for your loved one to return home, well, it’s incredibly tough.
Will he make it back? Will she be the person she was before she left?
Kimberly Greenlee bid goodbye to her brother Steven Rhonemus, a U.S. Marine whose career in the Armed Forces ended abruptly after he was injured in combat. He returned home, not exactly the same.
Sadly, Steven passed away in a motorcycle accident in 1974. Kimberly and his family had hoped to keep his dog tag, but at some point, it was lost.
On Independence Day, Bernie Conrad and his sons embarked upon a kayaking trip on the Hocking River in Ohio. They picked up trash along the beach and beautified the environment.
While scouring the shoreline, 12-year-old Kolton spied something glittering along the water’s edge. It was an old military dog tag bearing the name Rhonemus!
A history buff and fan of the Armed Forces, Kolton couldn’t believe his find. His aunt serves in the military, as have other family members.
Kolton believed the dog tag was real and he was right!
They took it home and gently cleaned it, then verified that it was authentic. Kolton’s mom Ashley posted about the guys’ discovery on Facebook, hoping to track down the owner of the dog tag, having no idea what had happened to Steven or who he was.
“Rhonemus doesn’t seem like a very common name, so we thought it should be pretty easy to find who it belonged to. So we put it on Facebook and within about six hours someone got in touch with us.”
A woman who saw Ashley’s post notified her friend whose cousin was none other than Kimberly, Steven’s sister. When they contacted her about their find, she couldn’t believe it!
“When my cousin, Wendy Pennington, called me about Ashley’s post, I could feel her excitement over the phone. She told me ‘you’re not going to believe this,’ and I could just hear the disbelief. She told me how Kolton found the dog tag, and I just said ‘WHAT?’ It’s just amazing to think about, this tag was lost for 46 years, and for this little boy to find it on Independence Day, of all days. And for him to realize the meaning behind the tag and to hold on to it, to help a stranger’s family, it’s amazing.”
The Conrads met Kimberly at a local park, the perfect place for this exchange.
“We said we could meet at Rising Park, and Kimberly said it was her brother’s favorite place to hang out, so we knew it felt right.”
When she approached, Kolton nervously yet excitedly presented her with the dog tag. He clutched a bouquet of flowers wrapped in red, white and blue stars and stripes paper.
Kimberly embraced Kolton, thrilled that he and his family took the time to track down the family of the soldier to whom the tag belonged.
It was one more piece of her brother that filled the ache in her heart since he had been gone.
“He was a brother, a protector. Everybody loved him. The first thing you’d hear about him if you said his name is ‘he was my brother.’ He was a good man. I loved him, and I can only imagine how my life would have been different if he had lived.”
She also knew how much having the dog tag would mean to her niece Danielle, her brother’s daughter, who was born after her father died.
Giving her the dog tag was one way Kimberly thought they could give Danielle a glimpse into her father’s life.
“It was emotional when she got it. She said it felt like God was letting her know her dad was with her and watching over her.”
The family lost many of Steven’s photos and possessions in a fire, so the dog tag meant everything to the family.
“We have so much gratefulness for [the Conrads], from the bottom of our hearts. They were able to give us back a piece of my brother and helped show respect to the military, the respect it deserves.”
Some may say it was pure luck, but others would say it was fate that Kolton found the long lost dog tag on Independence Day.
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