A North Texas woman called the NBC 5 Responds team after trusting the post office with a long-lost family heirloom that got lost in the mail.
The package contained an ID bracelet that belonged to a World War II veteran. It was lost to his family for seven decades. When a Frisco woman tried to return it, the package went missing in the mail.
Dina Gray said she spent years trying to find the rightful owners of the bracelet, hoping to fulfill her father’s dying wish.
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Her dad, Vic DeMaio, asked Gray to help him find a fellow veteran before DeMaio passed away in 1995.
“I want you to find my Army buddy for me,” Gray told NBC 5 of that conversation with her dad. “He says 'go on that World Wide Web and find my Army buddy from Germany.'”
Gray said all she had to go on was the name Harold Smith from Michigan.
“I wrote to the VA and I wrote to some VFW places in Detroit, still couldn’t find anything,” said Gray.
Gray scoured social media and genealogy sites on and off for years. When Gray’s mother died last year, she found Smith’s ID bracelet in her parents’ home. Gray realized her dad wanted to find Smith to return it.
“If somebody had my dad’s bracelet, would they throw it away? No,” said Gray.
The search renewed, Gray enlisted her brother-in-law’s help. He had a military contact who helped track down Smith’s gravesite, which lead to more family members names and an obituary for Smith’s wife. The obit listed a funeral home that is still in operation. The funeral home agreed to contact Smith’s son and daughter-in-law in Michigan.
Rick and Donna Smith said they didn’t know about a lost ID bracelet, but they recognized the DeMaio name.
The Smiths had a scrapbook Harold Smith put together before he passed. It contained photos of his friends in the Army and some featured DeMaio.
Gray was confident she’d finally found the right family.
The next day, June 27, she raced to the post office and mailed the bracelet to Rick and Donna Smith.
“I sent it priority mail and then two weeks go by and it’s missing. I was sick,” said Gray.
The Smiths tried to locate it.
“She gave us a tracking number and we were tracking it, we called the post office,” said Donna Smith.
They couldn’t find the package.
“I didn’t know who to call, so I contacted NBC 5,” said Gray. “Then all of a sudden after your call, the bracelet turns up and it’s on its way to Michigan.”
A spokesperson for the USPS tells the NBC 5 Responds team it’s not clear how the package was lost, saying it may have been misdirected.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am that you helped me keep this promise to my dad because I was so mad at myself,” said Gray. “My husband will tell you I couldn’t sleep for those two weeks when the bracelet went missing.”
The Smith family recorded a video of Rick Smith, surrounded by family, opening the package.
“Wow, look at that,” Smith said as he held it up. “Thank you!”
The bracelet’s inscription included Harold Smith’s name and serial number. On the back, there was an inscription from his parents – indicating the bracelet was a gift to the young solider from his parents.
The family heirloom was back in the family.
“We’ll have this forever. I can pass this on to my kids and to the grandkids,” said Rick Smith.
“And it has an awesome story to go along with it. That’s the best part,” added Donna Smith.
Gray believes her dad may have won the bracelet in a card game while he was in the service in the 1940s. The families of Smith and DeMaio say both men liked to play cards.
“Our fathers are probably playing poker together right now,” said Gray.
“I can hear the cards being shuffled,” she added with a smile.
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