UPDATED Jan. 22, 2018: Story updated to include information that owner of the ID and dog tags has been located.
While at an estate sale with his mother last weekend along Marine Drive, Jerome Tom stumbled across a pair of army boots.
“I was looking at them, and then I looked down and noticed an old army backpack,” the 41-year-old Everson resident told The Bellingham Herald in an interview Thursday. “My dad was in the military, and I liked the backpack, and my mom said to get it.”
On the drive home, Tom said he started going through his new find, and that’s when he made a discovery that has sent him on a week-long mission to find the former owner of the backpack to return its contents.
Tom said he pulled out a U.S. Department of Defense Geneva Conventions identity card belonging to Dennis H. Luby of the U.S. Army.
When Tom got home, he dug deeper into the backpack and pulled out a pair of military identification tags, or dog tags, also belonging to Luby.
“I was really stunned that I found his dog tags,” Tom told The Herald. “I was shocked when I first found his ID card, but then to find his dog tags on top of it ... I talked to my mom about it, and we decided we needed to try to return them.”
Tom said he attempted to contact the people running the estate sale, but they had already moved on to another sale by that time. He also said he had no luck locating anyone named Luby.
Now Tom said he’s seeking help to locate either Luby, who would be 68, or his family so that he can return the items.
“I respect anybody that served in our military,” Tom told The Herald. “If it wasn’t for them, the rest of us couldn’t do what we do. I think something like this would be very important to somebody who’s served or their family.”
Tom said he especially appreciates the value of the items, as he has a number of family members who also served — his uncle was in the Marines and his grandfather was a sharpshooter in the Army.
Even his father served as a combat engineer shortly after Tom was born.
“My dad passed away in ‘95, but he taught me a lot of stuff he learned while he was in the military,” Tom said. “He taught me how to start a fire and how to survive in the woods and how important serving your country is. His teachings made me the man I am today. Anybody who serves in the military, I make sure I go up and thank them, and I think this would be a way for me to do that.
“I would really appreciate somebody trying to get something of my dad’s back to me, and I hope I can do this for him or his family.”
If you have any leads on how to contact Luby or his family, Tom asks you contact him through his Facebook account at Jerami Zapata.
Tom told The Bellingham Herald in a phone message left Monday, that he has has been contacted by a friend of Luby, who said Luby is planning to return to the area soon. Tom said he is attempting to contact Luby before that trip to see if they can meet up in Whatcom County and return the items at that time.