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Recovering Lost History: Concordia resident receives lost WWII dog tags

November 6, 2018

Below is a story published in the September 2018 issue of Faith in Caring magazine (click here to check out the full issue online) about a Concordia Village of Tampa resident who lost his military dog tags in 1944... or so he thought. Special thanks to fellow resident Lydia Lombardo for writing this amazing true story! To be added to the mailing list or e-mail distribution list, message us through the contact form on our website or call the Concordia Public Relations Department at 724-352-1571, ext. 8266. Enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment below!

A G.I.’s dog tags, lost for 73 years, traveled 4,466 miles from Normandy to Florida to be reunited in January 2018 with their owner, Boris Stern of Tampa, who has since become a Concordia Village of Tampa resident.

*The video on this page is from a recent TV news story on Boris's amazing story. Click here for an even more recent video from Tampa Fox News 13.

Boris, 17 years old and newly graduated from Crane Technical High School in Chicago, enlisted in the army in August of 1943. Intense training in war games followed at the Fort Benning, Georgia Army Base. Finally, he and his comrades boarded a ship bound for the British Isles in October, 1944. Boris turned 19 on the voyage over.

“We were on the ship for seven days, and I was seasick until we passed the Statue of Liberty; luckily after that my body seemed to adjust,” recounts Boris. “After we reached Britain, we moved from place to place, until we reached an English Channel port where we boarded a ship in December 1944 bound for Normandy. I remember shivering in the bitter cold; the Channel’s water was extremely choppy and we arrived in the middle of the night after transferring to LSTs for landing. I climbed up a cliff to an abandoned German bunker to keep warm, while some of my comrades lit a fire on the beach. The fire then exploded, and we suffered our first casualty of the war. I climbed down to see if I could help, and I guess that’s where I lost my dog tags. I didn’t notice they were gone for several days since we never changed our clothes during that time.”

Finally, trucks arrived and the soldiers on the beach were transported to Germany. Boris participated in many front-line skirmishes during the ensuing Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded twice and partially lost his hearing as a result of one. He became skilled in procurement and was rewarded with sergeant stripes, which he maintained until his discharge. He received replacement dog tags and never gave those lost on the Normandy beach another thought.

When Boris returned to Chicago after the war, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill, earning a degree in chemistry from The Illinois Institute of Technology in 1950. He also married his sweetheart, Margery, that year. He originally worked as a chemist for Allied Chemical Corp., and promotions followed quickly until Boris became the company’s COO. His career expanded as he transferred to other companies, serving as COO or president for several large corporations and moving around the country, eventually landing in Florida.

“I retired in 1990 and really believed I wanted a leisurely life,” Boris said. “However, a Mexican firm called asking me for assistance in forming a USA company, and I couldn’t resist. Ultimately, I formed several successful companies of my own and ended my career consulting in my field all over the world.”

His second retirement in 2004 offered Boris a chance to “return all that has been given to me. I think I am a very lucky guy with a wonderful 67-year marriage, two bright, attentive sons and three beautiful grandchildren. So, I started volunteering, first at Moffitt Cancer Center and then at Haley V.A. Hospital. At Moffitt, I run the Family Center for family and friends of those in intensive care. I lend a compassionate ear and assist in any way I can. At the V.A. Hospital, I interact with patients in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit. I talk with them and hand out snacks. It’s very humbling and gives me a chance to interact with those who need touch and company. I learn a lot from both volunteer positions and hope to continue going three or four days a week.”

The year 2018 brought many changes to Boris and aroused many emotions. His beloved wife died in early January, and a few days later he was contacted about his lost dog tags. A Frenchman who routinely scours the Normandy sands located Boris’ dog tags using a metal detector. Boris thought it was a scam when an American go-between contacted him; but it was real, and the dog tags arrived…a little bent but intact.

Boris has been recognized by America and France for his contributions in winning the war in Europe. He has received citations and medals from both countries and became a Knight of the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award. He has also been honored here in Tampa where he served as Grand Marshal of the Veteran’s Day Parade in November 2017 and as a speaker for the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council.

He came to live at Concordia Village of Tampa in March, 2018. One of his sons convinced him that rumbling around by himself in a big old house that needed care was not a good option.

“My son’s search brought me here to Concordia, and I agreed to move in because it has everything I need. It’s very close to both Moffitt and the V.A. Center, where I can easily drive, the other residents are friendly and there’s plenty to do when I’m not volunteering.”

As for the dog tags: “It was such a surprise to have them returned, and I marvel that a Frenchman living all those miles away cared enough to find a way to return them.”

Concordia Village of Tampa offers independent living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation services, assisted living and memory care in the heart of Tampa’s vibrant university area. For more information about Concordia Village of Tampa or to schedule a visit, please call 813-977-6361 or visit us online at www.ConcordiaTampa.org.

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