A Military Mystery: Couple digs up precious item from WWII

Posted at 12:27 AM, Jul 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-22 17:38:36-04

Franklin, Va. - A small piece of metal in the dirt – a piece of history – has now been returned to a World War II veteran in Franklin after 70 years.

Wesley Wills served in Germany at the end of World War II. He was a tail gunner in a B-24 Liberator bomber.

“I was 18. I’m now 88, will be 89 August 31st,” he says. “I’m proud that I was able to serve my country, but I don’t consider myself a hero in any way.”

Wills still has tokens from his early life, now dusty and stored in the attic of his Franklin home. They’re things he had given little thought to… until recently.

About 15 minutes away, in the quiet town of Sedley, Allison and Kelby Lilly uncovered another token of Wills’ past.

Dug up from the dirt and mud in their garden, was an old, beat up dog tag.

“I brought it in and she washed it off and I realized you could read the name on it,” said Kelby. So the hunt for Wesley was on.

“We were discussing he’s probably not alive. That’s actually what we said.”

It didn’t take long for them to realize Wesley was still very much alive and very much unaware he was missing his dog tag.

Allison posted their discovery to Facebook. Hundreds of likes, dozens of shares, messages and phone calls later, a family member got word to Wills and soon he was knocking at their door.

“When I got over to his house, I was able to quote him the number on this after 70 years. It matched,” Wills said. After all that time, those memories flooded back.

“It’s good to get back… to think back so many years,” Wesley says.

The Lillys' home on 1st Street was once Wesley’s home, too. He moved there after the war with his new bride Gladys to start a family.

“My favorite memory of this house? It would be that I had two of my children born here,” he says.

After two children, Wills moved on and unknowingly left behind a small piece of his history in the dirt. And now after all this time, it’s now back home with him.

“It was a sentimental feeling and historical feeling for me and I wanted to keep it for my grandchildren,” he says. “I’m just a blessed man. I’ve really been blessed.”

“To be able to have this dog tag to tell us a story by the man who wore it. That was….that was neat,” Allison says.