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Dog Tags

When they say, “The only thing we don’t still have, are his dog tags.“ One might as well buy the whole case of Kleenex’s.


A few months ago, I was contacted by a lady seeking a monument restoration service.

She said “Ma’am just so you know, this would not be a local job. I’ve searched online and can’t find anyone in the state of Mississippi who cleanse monuments. I live in Meridian, but the stone I’d like to ask you about is in West Point. How far does your company travel?”


I informed her of the travel expense per mile that would be in addition to the service.

She never hesitated. Sent me a picture of the monument, and said “do it”.


It was a very small stone. The travel was literally going to cost more than the monument restoration itself. She didn’t care. All she was worried about was having it done before Father’s Day. She said, it was her father‘s fathers stone. In short, it was her grandfathers stone. Cleaning it would be a gift to her Father.


Within two weeks, I was walking into a rather large cemetery in West Point Mississippi. There were six drives that led into the cemeteries east side, alone.


The size of this stone made finding it a needle in a haystack, to say the least. Then finally we spotted the black marker.


A marble stone was all of 24 inches in length, 12 inches in width, and four inches deep.

The name was hard to make out. It was time worn. It was dirty. The stone was all but black and covered in fresh cut grass.


Yet engraved, top and center, was a cross. White as snow.


As I started cleaning, I began to make out,

“Dewey Compton”

Mississippi

PVT 115 INF 29 INF Division

World War ll

January 13 1920 – June 6 1944


This was a first for me. I had just been given the honor of restoring the headstone for a gentleman that lost his life on the beaches of Normandy. My thoughts of (or lack there of) were about to change forever on D-Day.

Dewey Compton was merely 24 years old when his wife Louis would receive the news. It would come via U.S. Army Chaplin and Western Union Telegram.


I bet, she already knew how it read.


Like most able bodied young men at that time, Mr Compton willingly enlisted in the army. He was called to duty December of 1942. He spent a short stay at Camp Shelby. In April of 1943 he was sent over seas.

But before leaving his home on Main Street, in West Point Mississippi, Mr Compton made sure to love on his wife Louis and their new baby. A boy they named Kenneth.

But Private Dewey always referred to him as KT or Dumplin, in the many letters he wrote home.


Little Kenneth never had an opportunity to have a single photo made with his father. He doesn’t remember his father. He doesn’t remember his father leaving. But he does however, remember him coming home.

You see, Dewey Compton left as someone who couldn’t be remembered. But he came back as someone none of us will ever forget.


Fours years had passed since KT’s Father went to camp Shelby. A long two had passed since they received news of his dads death. His body buried with thousands of other soldiers in France. But by the time Kenneth was school-age his daddy would finally be brought back home.


Mr Compton eventually returned on the 4:11 Southbound Rebel. A train that came directly from Memphis General Depot to West Point. His casket draped with the 48 Star American Flag. Along with personal items, including his Bible and a lock of KT’s hair found inside his battle uniform.


A memorial service at the First Baptist Church West Point was held in his honor. Followed by the playing of taps and a 21 gun salute at West Points ‘Greenwood Cemetery’. Mr Compton had been brought home and given a proper burial.


He and his dog tags.


It’s been almost 80 years since such a small stone was issued for such an immeasurable service. But, I guess it’s never to late to say, Mr Compton we thank you and we salute you. May God richly bless Kenneth and your family. What an honor it was to hear your story. What an honor it was to do your stone.


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