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Dutch officer returns WWII veteran's dog tag to brother at Okla. base

By JOSH DULANEY | The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City | Published: November 23, 2019

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (Tribune News Service) — A small symbol of a big sacrifice was delivered Friday to Oklahoma when the dog tag of a U.S. Army Air Force flight mechanic killed in World War II was found and returned to his brother by Netherlands military officials 75 years later.

During a special ceremony at Tinker Air Force Base, 1st Lt. Willem Van der Steen of the Royal Dutch air force presented the dog tag of Tech. Sgt. Orville Bruce Journey to his 86-year-old brother, Dwight Journey.

"For the Journey family, it's important that they have that last piece of evidence of Bruce in their home, back in the U.S.," Van der Steen said. "That was my job, and I think we succeeded."

On Sept. 23, 1944, Bruce Journey, a Tennessee native, died during Operation Market Garden when German forces shot down his C-47 transport aircraft in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

The bold but failed mission of Operation Market Garden – to create an invasion route into northern Germany – resulted in as many as 13,000 Allied troop casualties, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

About two months ago, a volunteer group found Journey's dog tag near a monument marking the site of his fatal plane crash in the Netherlands.

"We're gathered here because he is one of the American heroes," said Col. Paul Filcek, commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker Air Force Base.

A family adopted Bruce Journey's grave at Margraten Cemetery, the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands.

Dwight Journey, an Oklahoma City resident, told ceremony attendees that his brother's dog tag is "symbolic of some larger things," while lauding his brother's sacrifice and the work of the Netherlands to return the military piece.

"God bless America," he said. "God bless the Netherlands and their people, especially Lt. Van der Steen for making this extraordinary trip. And dare I say, God bless our president, Donald Trump."

He's already picked out a special frame for the dog tag.

"I'm gonna keep it in a boxed frame with a hinge so I can open it and feel it when I want to," Journey said.

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