Struggling To Make Sense Of 2 Very Different Wars

In Austin, Texas, a career army sergeant major spent his last day in the service at a Memorial Day ceremony reflecting on his fallen comrades. And a son was amazed to receive the dog tags of his father, a World War II vet, after a treasure hunter found them buried on an Italian battlefield after 66 years.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

To mark Memorial Day today, we have the stories of two families now struggling to make sense of two very different wars.

NPR's John Burnett reports.

JOHN BURNETT: The Central Texas family of Oscar Glomb was able to remember that World War II veteran in a special way today. Pfc. Glum was injured in 1944 in Italy and lost his dog tags on the battlefield. He recovered from his wounds, earned the Bronze Star, married, came home to Shiner, Texas, raised a family and died in 1998. His story appeared in today's Austin American-Statesman.

In April of this year, his son Steve, a 60-year-old insurance adjuster, got a call at his home near Austin. A retired Italian policeman with a metal detector found his father's dog tags in a Tuscan forest. He kept one, Steve says his 85-year-old mother now has the other dog tag.

Mr. STEVE GLOMB (Insurance Adjuster): He always talked about, I wonder where those dog tags are. I always joked about going over there and finding those dog tags. So, it's a good reminder of what Memorial Day is all about and then for my mother, some little closure there.

BURNETT: The Perez family is still seeking closure. Each Memorial Day and Fourth of July, they come here to the grave of 19-year-old Nicholas Perez. He was the Marine turret gunner in a humvee that hit an IED on September 3rd, 2004 in northern Iraq. As Austin's first Hispanic to die in the Iraq War, there's now an elementary school name after him.

To date, more than 5,000 servicemen and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. The gravesite of Perez is festooned with flags, pinwheels, plastic flowers and Marine Corp insignias. His father, Samuel, sits in a swing as others stand solemnly in front of the white granite headstones.

Mr. SAMUEL PEREZ: These are relatives of ours. They come around, you know, Memorial Day. I come from a very, very big family and he's the first one. I mean, well, he's the only one in the military that had passed away in action.

BURNETT: The family says they are comforted when their thoughts of Nicholas are answered by the wind chime that hangs above his grave.

(Soundbite of wind chimes)

Mr. PEREZ: We're thinking, we know he's with us.

BURNETT: John Burnett, NPR News, Austin.

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