RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Luca Gattel is a barber in Tuscany, Italy, but the hobby he’s passionate about is metal detecting. On a good day, he can spend up to eight hours searching for treasure. During one of his recent hunts, he came across a World World II-era military dog tag from a Raleigh soldier.
The tag has the name of soldier Thomas L. Vaughn engraved across the top. The piece of the medal shows signs of age with dents, bends, and a tear. It’s worn nature holding a history only Vaughn or his family can share.
Speaking with CBS 17 from Italy, and with his wife as a translator, Gattel said, “It’s like you found a piece of a life and it’s something that connects you to other people, connects you to the story like it’s alive again.”
The place Gattel found the tag was a former military battleground. The tag was found among olive trees Gattel said were used by soldiers to rest and find shade from the sun.
Gattel has done some research on his end and found Thomas L. Vaughn was married to Coleen Cotten Vaughn. He discovered all three Vaughns are now dead.
Gattel decided he would try to find any family of the Vaugns to return the tag he found. He is not looking for any kind of reward — just the satisfaction of giving the family back a part of their history.
“If someone found something that belonged to my grandfather, it would be special for them to give to me. We would like to give this to them,” Gattel said through his wife.
Less than a day after posting a photo of the tag to Facebook, internet investigators have come pretty close to helping him track down a nephew of Vaughn still in the Raleigh area. Gattel has reached out and is still waiting to hear back. He has offered to mail the tag to the U.S. While they would enjoy returning it in person, the pandemic makes that difficult.
Information on the tag helped track down the potential family member. Engraved on the tag was the name Evelyn S. Vaughn with an address of Cameron Courts Apartment in Raleigh. City records show the apartment complex was constructed in 1938.
This is not the first time Gattel has come across old military artifacts. He found a military tag for an Italian soldier. He plans to reunite that family with their medal next month.
Gattel has also found old military lapel pins. The insignia on them indicate that soldier who wore them was a U.S. Army engineer.