Dad’s dog tags are a unique piece of jewelry

I wear my dad’s dog tags with frequency.

And that’s for a lot of reasons.

I wear them simply because they were my dad’s dog tags from his time of service in the Army during World War II.

He had served in a railroad battalion, running a locomotive in North Africa and Italy in what wasn’t necessarily a soft desk job since keeping the Allies supplied with vital cargo could be a vulnerable position, he had noted in later years as the commander of the Richmond American Legion Post 740 Honored Seven.

His remarks came during a Memorial Day weekend speech given in 1986 at the Richmond United Methodist Church.

“Looking now at pictures of those bombed out buildings, the railroad, a mass of twisted wreckage, exploded engines, lines of German prisoners on the desert, all reminded me of how close I came to eternity,” he had said in his speech, which I have and consider a treasure in and of itself, like the dog tags.

When he returned from the service, that first Memorial Day back in his hometown of Richmond took on new meaning, new significance, he had reminisced.

“All the new graves were for men of my own generation. These were no longer the faceless figures of unknown soldiers,” he had lamented.

“These were the neighbors I grew up with, the school chums I had at Amsterdam High School and the railroaders I worked with on the Pennsylvania.

“These were my peers,” Dad had said.

I consider those sentiments when I wear his dog tags, a piece of jewelry far more valuable to me than any diamond or any precious gem.

I came across them unexpectedly, tucked away in a box, and my initial thought at the time was to keep them there.

But like the good dishes you never use or the dress clothes you once reserved for Sunday wearing only, I thought “why?”

I decided to start wearing them — out of respect for him and for all military, past and present, who have served our great country.

I wear them, too, because I feel a personal connection whenever I see the information on them.

My dad’s name is there — Jay W. Hout. And below that is my grandmother’s name and address — Mildred Hout, P.O. Box 309, Richmond Ohio.

Finding the dog tags made me smile as much as a picture I came across of my dad wearing them.

Look at that, I thought to myself. The dog tags are in plain sight.

As an unmarried man in his early 20s, “Pidge” Hout could never have imagined having a daughter who one day would wear them with frequency and a sense of pride and patriotism.

Sometimes when I’m wearing them, and I fiddle with them, I wonder about all the times and circumstances he might have done likewise.

I’ll be wearing my dad’s dog tags this weekend, especially on Memorial Day.

And I will be grateful for all those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

God bless our military.

(Kiaski, a resident of Richmond, is a staff columnist and community editor for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)