Everson man finds veteran’s dog tags in estate sale
When California resident Dennis Luby got out of the Army in 1980 after eight years of service, he packed away his dog tags and moved forward, not looking back at the past.
“I stashed all this stuff away and totally forgot about it,” he told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson about his Army memorabilia. “I went on with my life.”
In those days, feelings against the recent Vietnam War were so strong that active duty service members and veterans often did not receive respect or appreciation for their enormous sacrifices and hardships; on the contrary, war protesters sometimes mistreated them.
The vitriol hurt Luby, who did not personally go to Vietnam but lost many friends there.
“I made it back home, and I think about the people who didn’t,” he said. “I think about high school friends who I went to school with, and nobody even knows the names of those guys. They died for their country.”
During his time as a nurse in the Army, Luby was stationed around the country, including Texas, Washington, D.C., Denver, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.
But despite his years of service, Luby never thought about being thanked for what he had given to his country … that is, until a trip with Norwegian Cruise Line in 2012.
“The cruise director stood up the the audience and he said he wanted veterans to stand up, and we stood up,” Luby described, choked up. “And he said thank you to the veterans. And it affects me every time now. I didn’t know it bothered me at the time, but every time I hear that — I hear it more and more, and I like it.”
And recently, Luby got an even bigger show of gratitude for his time in the Army.
Originally reported on KOMO 4, Everson resident Jerami Tom bought an old Army bag at an estate sale because it reminded him of a bag his veteran father had given him as a child. When Tom looked inside however, he found dog tags and military ID — belonging to a certain Dennis Luby.
With the help of the Bellingham Herald, Tom found Luby online and got in touch with him.
“For somebody to reach out like that to find me, I’m very impressed,” Luby said. “I want to thank [Tom] and the Bellingham Herald and everybody who put this together … I’m overwhelmed and very pleased.”
Luby plans to visit Washington next month to meet Tom, and to retrieve the dog tags and ID. He plans to let Tom keep the bag to remember his father by.
For Luby, this experience is about something bigger than having his personal mementos returned. After decades of feeling like his Army days were something he needed to hide away, it is a sign that his service is recognized and valued by people he has never even met.
“I appreciate Jerami reaching out and letting the veterans know there are those kind of people [who appreciate us] still there,” Luby said.