Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV
June 4, 2012
By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — They were relics of a war, just small tabs of metal stamped with a soldier’s name, rank, serial number and other pertinent information. For collectors, the dog tags didn’t have much meaning, but for the families behind the names on them, the tags represented loved ones too often long departed.
Back in 1993, a retired police chief, Ray Milligan of Deptford, N.J., was in Vietnam with a group called Operation Smile. He was there as logistics support coordinator for the project’s medical program. In the small shops lining the street outside his hotel, he saw that vendors were selling what appeared to be old, rusty American dog tags as souvenirs. He bought 350 of them and later gave them to the POW/MIA Awareness Committee of New Jersey.
The organization’s director of research, Sue Quinn-Morris, has worked to reunite the dog tags with their owners’ families. Several veterans’ organizations including the Nam Knights of America have helped with the project.
“What we have done different with this project since receiving the dog tags is to ensure that each dog tag, when welcomed, is hand delivered to the veteran, or to their family, by a veteran,” Quinn-Morris said in a POW/MIA Awareness Committee statement.
On May 26, a dog tag that once belonged to Harley David Harless, born Nov. 2, 1949, was returned to his daughter, Amy Hollins, 40, of Princeton. Harless served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He was with the 1st Brigade, 50th Infantry — the Short Range Ambush Patrol.
Jack Noble, a former comrade, remembered Harless as “a great guy and an excellent soldier — Harley was the RTO for his platoon,” according to the POW/MIA release. Harless returned home in 1969, married, and had a child, Amy Harless. In 1976, he was killed in Iaegar. After some effort, Quinn-Morris managed to find Amy, now Amy Hollins.
“She had been searching for me for quite some time, and, frankly, Facebook is how she found me,” Hollins told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.
On May 26, a veteran presented Hollins with her father’s dog tag during a ceremony at the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. It took place with the Nam Knights of America MC along with the POW/MIA Awareness Committee.
“It was very emotional. They hand-delivered them,” Hollins recalled. “They go through so much to get these, and it’s such an honor.”
Hollins now wears her father’s dog tag.
“It’s got his Social Security number…that he was Baptist. I’ve been wearing them ever since I got them,” she said. “They’ve got holes in them. They’re good and worn. They cleaned them up pretty good.”
— Contact Greg Jordan at email@example.com
Dog Tag Return to Amy Harless Hollins, daughter of deceased Vietnam veteran, Harley David Harless in Washington DC, May 2012. Nam Knights of America, POW/MIA Awareness Committee of NJ.