JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – One local couple found some important items belonging to a World War II veteran and vowed to get them to their family member if possible.
“I found the flag; she found the family,” Lloyd Hyatt said of his wife, Melissa.
Lloyd and Melissa Hyatt were shopping for fiesta wear at an antique shop in Wildwood, Florida, when they stumbled across a commemorative war burial flag tucked away on one of the shelves.
Lloyd, a veteran himself, knew the flag was oddly placed and didn’t belong in that shop.
“The interesting thing about this flag is it had the guy’s ID card and it actually had some other memorabilia. And I just felt that it didn’t belong in there and we should make an attempt to get it back to the family if at all possible,” Lloyd Hyatt said.
This unique piece of history would unlock the answer to a mystery, decades in the making.
“It’s just a treasure trove of information about this guy. He was a World War II veteran, honorably discharged. He was a plankowner on a destroyer escort that was out in the Pacific. And so, his original DD214 was in there, his honorable discharge was in there, paperwork for his burial in Springfield, Massachusetts, was in there, and there was actually a letter from Harry Truman thanking him for his service,” Lloyd Hyatt said.
Edwin Smith was the name on the ID card.
In addition to these pieces, there were also three shell casings from his military funeral, ribbons with two stars, a ruptured duck patch, and identification cards.
“He had a wife he had left behind, two sons and some grandchildren. It talked about how highly he was respected in the community, you know, and was going to be missed. So I started with that, using some search engines with the family members,” Melissa Hyatt said.
Melissa reached out to several of Smith’s family members via Facebook to try and connect with them to get the items to their rightful owners.
After going through a few different family members, the Hyatts heard back from Smith’s son.
“We ended up sending it to the original address that we had. It was amazing, actually, because they received, he received it on Labor Day. And sent me a message thanking us again for what we had done," Melissa Hyatt said. “And he said what they decided to do was that each family member was going to have Eddy with them for two weeks and then it was going to go on to the next family member. And that the final place was going to be with his son. I get chills over that.”
“My biggest fear was that we were going to find a family that didn’t care or they were indifferent to it. And we were so glad that didn’t happen," Lloyd Hyatt said. “And so we’re put in places in life where you just know what’s the right thing to do and this is one of them."
While it’s still unknown how these items ended up in Florida, Smith’s commemorative burial box is back where it belongs -- off the shelves of an antique shop now with its rightful owners in Massachusetts.
The Hyatts encourage anyone who stumbles across a piece of history like this to try to return it to its rightful owner -- it’s worth the effort.