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World War II Veteran John Joseph Keker Is Reunited With Long-Lost Dog Tag Thanks To Australian Soldier

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John Joseph Keker holds a dog tag returned to him earlier this year by Australian army reservist, Shane Fender
John Joseph Keker holds a dog tag returned to him earlier this year by Australian army reservist, Shane Fender

More than 67 years later, a World War II veteran has been reunited with his lost dog tag thanks to the efforts of an Australian soldier.

Marine Corps veteran John Joseph Keker, who was just 17 when he was first deployed, told Green Valley News that he lost his dog tag when he was stationed at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in the early 1940s.

Keker, who is now 88 and lives in Green Valley, Ariz., said he doesn't remember how he lost the dog tag but that he never expected to see it again.

"I haven't any idea when or where I lost it," he told The Huffington Post. "It could've been anywhere."

So when Shane Fender, a reservist with the Australian army, called him a few months ago claiming to have found his long-lost dog tag, Keker admits that he was initially skeptical.

"It didn't sink in at first. I thought, "Who's Shane?" -- I didn't know what he was talking about," Keker said.

Fender, 40, explained to Keker that he had stumbled upon a box of dog tags while deployed in the Solomon Islands last year.

Determined to find the owners of the dozen or so dog tags that he had found, Fender said he scoured the Internet for more information using the men's names and military details.

According to Green Valley News, Fender, who lives in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, said he finally got in touch with the Marine Raider Association who was able to put him in contact with Keker.

“It dawned on me that those tags needed to get home rather than rust away in a box,” Fender, whose great-uncle fought in World War I, wrote in a letter to Keker. “If someone had sent me a personal item from my relatives from either World War I or World War II, I could not explain what it would mean to me or how special it would be.”

Fender, who mailed the letter along with the dog tag to Keker, has also managed to connect with the relative of a deceased Marine in Illinois. He said he is still looking for the owners of the other dog tags.

Keker said he was very moved by the soldier's gesture.

"I broke down a little bit. People don't do much for me so when someone goes out of his way, I really appreciate that," he told The Huffington Post. "Shane -- I thought he was the greatest guy. I can't thank him enough."

Keker added that receiving the dog tag brought back memories of the war -- particularly of the friends he made during that challenging time.

"Everybody was so dependent on one another [during the war]. It was a hard time. They were like family and I miss them. They are what I remember most," he said.

For a full list of the veterans whose dog tags Fender found, read the Green Valley News story here.

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Filed by Dominique Mosbergen