Medina boy, 9, will return military dog tags to family of World War II pilot on Veterans Day

Ceremony to take place at Waite Elementary

MEDINA, Ohio - Lenny Aydemir was immediately curious when his uncle from France handed over military dog tags during a visit to the 9-year-old boy's home last July.

"I asked some questions about it like, 'What was it and why am I having it?'" Aydemir recalled.

He read the name on the tags - Jack B. Robbins from Wichita Falls, Texas - and then began a research project, along with a mission to return the tags to the family of the World War II veteran.

"I thought it was really cool," he said.

Aydemir used the search engine Google to enter the military identification number on the dog tags, which led him to Jackie Flannery, a historian from Chicago.

Flannery has been studying Robbins' story for three years as part of a book she's writing about pilots who flew in the U.S. Air Force 396th Fighter Squadron, also known as "Thunder Bums."

She was stunned that Aydemir, who was 8 years old at the time, was seeking her out for information through an email she received in September.

"I was in disbelief. I just could not believe. We didn't even know that he had lost his dog tags," Flannery said.

Since that time, Aydemir has been working with his father on a PowerPoint presentation detailing Robbins' life.

On Veterans Day, the third grader will give his presentation at his school, Ralph E. Waite Elementary, in Montville Township.

He'll hand over the dog tags to Robbins' relatives from Texas and Colorado who are flying up for the ceremony at 2 p.m.

"I think it's going to be pretty neat and they're going to like it and say and say thank you," Aydemir said.

Marcus Tucker, Robbins' nephew from Colorado, expects the moment to be emotional.

"It's a treasure. It's like jewelry. I still can't believe those tags have been found," Tucker said.

Robbins was shot down on June 24, 1944 near St. Giles, France.

A French family pulled him from the wreckage and hid and cared for the inured pilot until July 8, until the Germans evacuated their farm.

Robbins was captured and spent the remaining 10 months of the war as a prisoner of war.

He escaped on April 29, 1945 and eventually returned to the U.S. He died in 1969 in a drowning accident while fishing.

The dog tags were discovered in a Tinqueux field in either 1989 or 1990 by Vincent Granier, a friend of the Aydemir family.

Unable to find Robbins' family, he gave the tags to Christophe Zielinski, Lenny's uncle, who also couldn't track down relatives.

But Lenny kept searching once he got the tags. His determination paid off and will lead to an emotional homecoming for the precious item on Monday afternoon.

His mother, Deborah Aydemir, said she couldn't be more proud.

"When I speak, I'm just like so emotional because when you imagine that American people came to help France and now my son tried to do something to thank the family," she said.

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