It is not uncommon for someone to come across a dog tag in an area that was heavily populated by soldiers at the time. Especially with as many soldiers who were in this area for the Louisiana Maneuvers.
But what is uncommon is finding 23 dog tags encased in mortar in a cinderblock belonging to a building that was destroyed by a fire in 1958.
That is exactly what Donald Warren of Leesville found.
In 2006 Warren was helping repair the foundation on the American Legion Post 510 on N. Gladys Street using cinderblocks that were repurposed from the foundation of what used to be the USO on the corner of Simpson and Nona Streets.
While sitting on the steps of the Legion he noticed something sticking out of the mortar that was in the center of a cinderblock. He picked up his hammer and hit the block one time. As soon as he did the cinderblock cracked open and the mortar started to crumble revealing the dog tags.
He gathered the tags up and did his best to clean the mortar off of them.
For several years he held on to the dog tags, not really sure what to do with them.
Over the years he wondered who would have encased the dog tags. He theorized that a unit from Fort Polk may have been responsible for the construction of the USO and maybe to commemorate the achievement they created a time capsule with their dog tags.
So he took the dog tags to the Public Affairs Office on Fort Polk. He thought that they would be able to find who the tags belonged to, or at the very least, their families.
After two years the tags were returned to Warren.
According to the PAO some of the tags were illegible and they were unable to find any other information for who the tags belonged to.
Not content with giving up and determined to return the tags and find out why they were encased in mortar, Warren took the tags to the Leesville Daily Leader office and asked for them to do what they could to get the tags returned.
Never one to back down from a challenge, the Leader staff had to first identify the era the tags are from.
It has been determined based on the information on the dog tags that all of the 23 tags are for soldiers who fought in various years of WWII.
Further research has determined which soldiers were drafted, who were enlisted and even their Corps Area or Service Command.
Using Fold3, Ancestry, Family Search and Google, enlistment records have been found for 10 of the 23 soldiers so far.
For one soldier, Eugene Joseph Pare, his movements have been tracked from his initial enlistment in 1931, to his multiple trips across the ocean, to his final re-enlistment on October 29, 1945, at Camp Clairbourne, Louisiana. Pare was part of the Medical Corps of the regular Army.
The Leader has also made contact with a niece of Pare who remembers her uncle having red hair, the only member of the family who did.
We have learned that Pare was stationed in Leesville during WWII.
After the war, he was diagnosed with cancer in one of his legs and doctors wanted to amputate it. Pare refused to have it amputated so he was given a medical discharge under honorable conditions and sent home to Haverhill, MA where he raised turkeys until his death on January 4, 1971.
Knowing what we do now a new theory has emerged. It is our belief that these soldiers somehow knew each other and attended the USO at some time while here in the area and each one dropped their tag in to commemorate all being together at that particular moment in time.
However, questions still remain. Questions like, did they serve together? Did they know one another before coming together that day? What was the significance of leaving behind their tags?
These are questions that the Leader will continue to research and report on as answers are found.
We are asking that if anyone can help identify these soldiers and why they were at the USO together, please call the Leader at (337) 462-0616 or email email@example.com.
We would love to hear from anyone who can answer these questions while we work to find the relatives of the rest of the soldiers.