Medina boy returns military dog tags to family of WW II pilot during emotional school ceremony

MEDINA, Ohio - There was a very powerful Veterans Day moment in Medina on Monday when a 9-year-old boy returned dog tags to the family of a World War II pilot.

Inside the gymnasium at Ralph E. Waite Elementary School, Lenny Aydemir gave a presentation that detailed the remarkable life of Jack B. Robbins form Wichita Falls, Texas.

He then handed over the military ID tags to Robbins' nephew from Colorado and other relatives from Texas.

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 and began an on-line research project, along with a mission to return the tags to the family of veteran's' family.

"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.

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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