Martin C. Evans

Long dead soldier provides his son with mementos

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Its contents had been a mystery to the French farmer who discovered the weathered pouch buried in a field near the German border: Army dog tags, a tiny ring, a St. Christopher pendant, a U.S. Army medallion.

To Robert Foster, a retired Greenport school janitor who lived his whole life in the tiny North Fork village, they were a final connection to the soldier father he never knew.

“It’s great to have something of my father’s,” said Foster, a former waterman who was only 4 when his dad died. “It brings emotions I’ve never had before.”

The items had been secreted in the field in the waning months of World War II by Foster’s father, William, who may have thought he was about to be captured by the Nazis and ditched items that could identify him as an American GI.

William Foster made it home safely, but died soon after, while Robert was still a toddler.

Foster’s wife, Frances, never remarried, and she and Robert spent more than six decades living together with few physical reminders of their soldier loved one. They had no pictures, no Army citations, no medals to remember him by.

That began to change recently, when a farmer working in a field near Metz, France, uncovered the pouch and disgorged its contents.

Sensing their sentimental value, he forwarded them to authorities, who eventually placed them in the hands of the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

U.S. officials noticed that the “dog tags” identified William Foster as a resident of Suffolk County, and contacted the county’s Veterans Services Agency, which began trying to reach members of his family.

William Foster’s widow, Frances, died Dec. 21, hours before Suffolk officials reached her home with word that her husband’s effects had been found.

County Execitive Steve Levy presented Robert Foster with the long-buried mementos during a ceremony honoring Long Island’s military personnel. Newsday carried an account of the discovery and ceremony.

Levy also presented the Suffolk County Medal of Distinguished Military Service to family members of two Suffolk residents who were killed in war last year.

The medals honor Army Sgt. Jonathan Keller, 29, of Wading River, and Army Staff Sgt. Keith Bishop, of Medford. Keller died at a Ft. Bragg, N.C. medical center January 24, 2009 of complications of gunshot wounds suffered the prior April in Afghanistan. Bishop, 28, died in a helicopter crash while on an October 26 mission in Afghanistan.

Robert Foster, a man of few words, said little while receiving his father’s effects. But later, he shared reflections that seemed to come hard to him.

“I don’t have much of my father, don’t know much about my father,” he said, cradling the items in his weathered hands.

“I’m going to bring them home and have them in a good place,” he said. “It’s like he’s come back to me.”

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  1. dear mr. evans,

    thank you so much for this story. it truly touched my heart… what a wonderful gift for robert foster.

    my father also served in WWII under Patton…. since he never had a son (i have 2 sisters), my nephew and i now share his dogtags. my 12 yr old nephew wears his everyday… so i can appreciate the significance of mr. foster’s dogtags.

    thank you for your stories on WWII vets. i appreciate each and every one of them.

    sincerely

    cathleen prout

  2. What a beautiful story. I was honored to be there last night at the ceremony. It brought tears to my eyes. Your father and mother are smiling down at you. God Bless.

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