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Family Reunited with WWI Dog Tag After More than 80 Years

Ryan Juntti
Updated: August 19, 2019 10:56 PM

Alan Carpenter often looks for buried artifacts in Hibbing's Cobb Cook Park using his metal detector. It's something he does for fun, but he and his partner Jim Kochevar also return lost items.

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Last spring, Carpenter made his most important discovery, a World War I dog tag found buried under at least 6 inches of frost.

"At first I didn't know what it was, I thought it was some kind of token or something until I got home and rinsed it off, then I seen the United States Marine Corps on it," said Carpenter.

With Kochevar's help, this past Memorial Day he figured out the dog tag belonged to Anton Bernhardt, a World War I veteran, and former Hibbing police officer.

Then it was time to track down a family member who they could return it to. After a year of looking, they found Joseph Martin, Anton's great nephew.

"To find something like this after being lost for 80 years that's just unbelievable," said Martin.

And on Monday afternoon at Maple Hill Cemetery in Hibbing where Anton is buried, Martin was given an American flag with the dog tag on top.

"It means a lot to be able to return it to a family member that deserves it. Anything found that we find, if a ring has a name in it, or something, we always return it to the owner. It makes you feel good," said Carpenter.

"It's exceptional. This is probably one of the highlights of our metal detecting career," said Kochevar. 

To this day, Martin doesn't know why the dog tag was where it was, but it's something he and his family will always hold close to their hearts.

"This is really an amazing story, and something that we'll all remember and something that we can really cherish the flag and this dog tag," said Martin. 

Bernhardt was born in Duluth in 1891, and passed away in 1932. Martin says he went in the service in 1914 when he was 17-years-old.

Hibbing Police Chief Steve Estey says death records show Martin was a police officer when he passed away. It is not known exactly how he died, but Estey says it was not in the line of duty.

Carpenter says this year he has found and returned two engagement rings. He says he and Kochevar will look for things that people have lost in northern Minnesota both in water, and on land for free.

"We just ask that people do a good deed for others," said Kochevar.

Carpenter can be reached at 218-966-8144, and Kochevar can be reached at 218-787-2478.

Credits

Ryan Juntti

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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