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Family gets deceased loved one's dog tags back three years after losing them in ocean

U.S. AIR FORCE

By NICK WATSON | The Times, Gainesville, Ga. (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 2, 2019

Cleaning the top of his dresser, John Kirschman stumbled upon military dog tags his granddaughter found in the Panama City Beach waters more than three years ago.

“I put them aside so I would easily find (them). I was moving the dresser, and that was on top. … I said, OK, I’ll try again,” Kirschman said.

His first attempt to return the tags to the proper owner had been futile.

Kirschman’s family was in Panama City Beach in 2015, where his 11-year-old granddaughter swam and dove in the ocean.

“She was collecting sand dollars, live ones, and then (would) bring them up and show them to us, and then she’d go back down and dive,” Kirschman said.

During the sand dollar excursion, she found something glittering in the water somewhat buried in the sand. It was a set of dog tags that belonged to someone named Hester.

Kirschman said they couldn’t find anything online when initially searching for the tags’ owners.

But three years later, his curiosity would lead him to the obituary for Lyndon and Brittany Hester, of Commerce. According to the obituary, Lyndon and Brittany had both joined the Army “where they met and were married” in February 2011. Three years later they died in an October 2014 car wreck.

Kirschman then called the McGahee Griffin Stewart Funeral Home in Cornelia and funeral director Kasey McEntire, who helped Kirschman reach Lyndon Hester’s uncle, Hall County deputy coroner James Bell.

“At the funeral, my sister gave all the siblings something of (Lyndon’s), and his youngest brother, Sean, got his dog tags,” Bell said.

Bell said the dog tags were lost months after the funeral when some of the family took a trip to Florida.

When McEntire called Bell to break the news and help coordinate the return of the dog tags, “It was almost like a rebirth. I had to pull over, cold chills, crying in disbelief. It was a miracle,” Bell said of the Jan. 25 phone call.

Bell was able to return the dog tags to Sean Hester, of Lawrenceville, on Monday, Jan. 28.

“I felt that God wanted us to find them so that we could return them,” Kirschman said Friday.

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