Tennessee couple finds WWII-era box of memories, hopes to reunite it with family

WWII box
Posted at 7:13 PM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-04 15:25:38-04

SMITHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Between the World War II-era journal, pictures, and Purple Heart, Phillip and Jenny Vining have a box of treasures.

They've never met the family it belongs to. The box says, 'Grand Paw. War Two.'

Phillip found it in the Dekalb County Cookeville Highway Collection Center in Smithville. He was hauling trash when he saw the box on one of the dumpsters. He looked inside and immediately spotted the Purple Heart.

"I questioned, 'why would God allow him to find it?'" said Jenny. "I do know why. We want it to get back to the family."

The Vinings have some important clues to get it there. Most key is a dog tag.

"Russell Emery. Russell M. Emery," Phillip read, then held up a panoramic picture. "This was his battalion, I guess, before they shipped off to fight in the war."

Also important is a journal with details of the Emery family.

"[Russell] went over and was slightly wounded in France somewhere," said Phillip. "He came home on the Queen Mary, and this was inside the box."

Phillip showed a crinkled old picture of the Queen Mary.

"He was a member of VFW 5312," he continued. "Haven't had a lot of luck getting ahold of them. It's in Aurora, Indiana."

While the pictures include the battalion and Queen Mary, there is not a specific picture of Emery.

Of course, Philip and Jenny have many questions. What's the story behind a second dog tag in the box belonging to Gary Schneider? How did the box end up at the Dekalb County Cookeville Highway Collection Center?

"Don't know how it made it to the dump, but it sure didn't belong there," Phillip said.

"Surely, we'll be able to find somebody that has a family connection to this," Jenny continued. "Some family, somewhere, I feel like they need it back."