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World War II vet receives lost dog tags, medal for service

Richard Urie accepts award on behalf of fellow servicemen

Created date

April 24th, 2012

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Richard Urie never expected to see his identification tags again after losing them during World War II. A teenager serving in Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, Richard didn t publicize having lost his dog tags and hadn t given them much thought since. That changed late last year when his tags were returned to him, spurring a chain of events and unexpected honors for Richard, who lives at Brooksby, the Erickson Living community in Peabody, Mass.

Lost and found

Then-teenager Mike Villagomez, a resident of Saipan, discovered Richard s tags in a field in 1981. Last year, Villagomez s wife Erlinda mentioned the tags to a colleague in the U.S. Attorney s Office in Saipan. The colleague, deputy marshal Randy Kruid, found Richard Urie on the Internet and connected with him. Kruid and Mrs. Villagomez then enlisted the help of another colleague who lived in Massachusetts and was able to deliver the tags to Richard at Brooksby. A young marine lost a dog tag, and you don t expect it to come back to you 67 years later, Richard says.

Sharing honors

While Richard provided interviews for Brooksby s own TV station, TV919, and for local newspapers, back in Saipan Mrs. Villagomez asked her uncle, U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, who represents the Northern Mariana Islands, to present Richard with a medallion for his service. Sablan and Massachusetts Congressman John F. Tierney made the trip to Brooksby earlier this year to present Richard with the commemorative medallion in a ceremony in Brooksby s interfaith chapel. This gentleman has become our family, Sablan told Richard s family, friends, and fellow veterans who attended the event. Sablan explained that his father, who was a teenager when Richard was in Saipan, doesn t talk about the conflict there except to say, Just be grateful that you didn t live through it. I wouldn t be here without Mr. Urie, Sablan adds. Richard accepted the award on behalf of his Brooksby neighbors and those who fought in the Pacific. This award means a lot more to a lot of people of Brooksby, Richard said after being given the medal, which joined the dog tags around his neck. We were a generation. Whether you fought or were at home, we lived through the war. Richard added: I accept it in honor of all the people who fought in the Pacific. It was a long trip for a lot of people. I honor the people who didn t come back and the people who did. Before those in attendance, Richard reflected upon his memorable experience of landing in Nagasaki, Japan, in September 1945 just after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The people he met in Nagasaki were stunned but also relieved that the worst seemed to be over, he said. Richard served in the Marines for four years and was a private first class. It was very touching, says Richard s daughter, Beth Driscoll, who attended the ceremony with her husband. I m very honored to say that my father served in World War II.

Enclave for grace

At Brooksby, Richard participates on the dining committee, working with those who live and work in the community to enhance and maintain high-quality service in its restaurants. Our enclave here is a unique place, Richard says of Brooksby. I think this is a magnificent way to live. Overwhelmed and surprised by the attention and chain of events that have prompted fellow veterans to contact Richard since hearing his story, Richard maintains his humility and graciousness. I m very proud to be the recipient and the conduit of this award, but I m just the marine that made a mistake, he says, referencing the dog tags he lost 67 years ago.

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