Rep. Sean Duffy (right) and his staff helped veteran Ray Plenge and his family reclaim a World War II shell casing that Plenge had engraved with the names of his unit members.
After World War II ended, Ray Plenge didnít tell many stories. But those who were close to him knew this one.
It was 1945 and the Germans were on the retreat. Cpl. Plenge, then in his early 20s, was traveling through northern Italy with his unit when he came across a howitzer shell casing.
It was pure brass and measured about 12 inches tall, 6 inches wide. He decided to have it engraved with the names of his unit members, a memento of his time in Europe.
A local jeweler etched the unitís nickname, ďthe Thirsty 3rd,Ē and each unit memberís name into the casing. The last name on the list was Plengeís.
But Plengeís backpack and the shell within it disappeared at some point while the unit marched through Europe.
For the next 65 years, he told his wife, children and friends about this lost shell.
ďItís a story we always heard,Ē said Plengeís daughter, Rena Stout.
Then, in 2010, Plenge received a letter from an Italian man, Giancarlo Bendini, who had found and returned other lost possessions to members of the 10th Mountain Division Association. (Former Sen. Bob Dole fought with the 10th.)
Bendini described a shell that had been found during some construction work and was now owned by an Italian woman. The casing had names engraved on it, including Plengeís, the letter said. Because Plenge was the only person on the shell who was a registered member of the association, Bendini got in touch with him.
Bendini didnít know he had found the man who had made the shell what it was.
Plenge didnít sleep that night, Stout said. He was so excited that the casing was still around. He spent the next several months exchanging letters with Bendini and admiring photos of the casing that were sent to him.
But the woman didnít want to just give the casing away. She wanted to make sure it went to the right person.
ĎWhere Are We on the Case?í Tom Heiser met Ray and Shirley Plenge at a senior citizen dining site a year ago. They traded war stories, Heiser from his days in Vietnam, Plenge from his in WWII. And, of course, Plenge told Heiser about the shell. Heiser was fascinated by the story.
Heiser suggested Plenge get in touch with Congress. ďWhy donít you just take a shot?Ē he asked.
Thatís when Heiser decided that the shell was important. It mattered to Plenge, so it mattered to him.
Following the speeches from elected officials, the crowd stands at long tables as they dig into BBQ, brunswick stew, cadillac rice at the Law Enforcement Cookout at Wayne Dasher's pond house in Glennville, Ga., on Thursday, April 17, 2014.