NEWARK - A man from Newark who lost his dog tags while serving in France during World War II has had them returned to him nearly 70 years later.
Philippe Clerbout flew all the way from France to Newark to finally meet 89-year-old Willie Wilkins and his daughter, Carol Wilkins.
The dog tags, which broke from Wilkins' neck in 1944 in the south of France, were found in a garden by a friend of Clerbout's in 2001. He has been searching for Wilkins for the past 10 years.
It was thanks to American soldiers that Clerbout's father was freed from a German POW camp. "You don't forget the job of the veterans," Clerbout says.
Wilkins enlisted when he was just 17. His job during the war was to collect the bodies of U.S. soldiers who had died in battle so they could then be returned to their families. He was able to return to work in Newark, but was forced to retire at 44 still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Wilkins is now dealing with dementia and is cared for by Carol, his only child.