Marines return dog tags to families of fallen soldiers

A group of Marines, led by group president Tony Mauro, are helping to serve the families of fallen Marines, by reuniting them with the dog tags of their loved ones who lost their lives while protecting our freedom. Providing this closure to families is the mission of the Nam Knights.

Mauro was reared on Chicago's south side, so he's a Bears fan. "I got it growing up, from family members, so I followed them. I am blue and orange," Mauro said. However, that didn't stop him from taking his first trip to Lambeau Field last Sunday, to watch the Packers beat the Buccaneers. "It is pretty neat, and everybody is on top of each other, so it's all pretty tight. That's why they are great fans I guess," Mauro said.

Now in his 30s, Mauro is a staff sergeant in the Marines. He's served three tours of duty, and has spent half of his life in harm's way, to protect our country's freedoms. "As long as people can sleep, if they forget to lock their door at night, they can still wake up without being taken
over or being told where to go and what to do, then I am going to continue to do it," Mauro said.

Mauro is a father of four, and is back in the States awaiting surgery, but he is still active on a fourth tour, as a member of a group of veterans called the Nam Knights. The group is devoted to serving the families that fallen Marines have left behind. One way they serve is by delivering dog tags, recovered from battlefields, and then sold in Vietnamese street shops. Now, those dog tags are back home.

"Some people look at it as an object, but it is a lot more than that. It is their son, or their daughter. It is a piece of their family. It is closure, and it helps people get through these hard times," Mauro said.

Last Friday, a Wisconsin Marine made his final trip home from the Vietnam War, when Mauro and several Nam Knights delivered Marine Sergeant Arleigh Felch's dog tags to his widow, Nancy in Kohler. Sergeant Felch took a second tour of duty so his brother wouldn't have to go on the front lines. The young Marine was 24 when he died. Felch and Nancy had only been married for two years.

"They found Arleigh's dog tags and it just really overwhelmed me. It was just like finding another piece of him, and I gave the dog tags to my son Richie," Nancy said.

Sergeant Felch had seen pictures of his son, but the two never met. Richie Felch was six weeks old when his father died 44 years ago.

"When they took them off his neck, that was the most heart-warming thing I have felt for a really long time, and then I gave the dog tags to Richie. He said 'I never met my dad, but I'm glad I have another piece of him,'" Nancy said.

For Mauro, a man who has experienced atrocities no human being should ever be exposed to, bringing closure to a family is therapeutic. "We have a chance to hand a piece of a mystery, that might close a door, that might give comfort, and that is therapy. After I get done, some of their anger turns into happiness," Mauro said.