"Band of Brothers" descendent brings Vandenberg Airman lost family heirloom
By Staff Sgt. Erica Picariello, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 21, 2012
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother..." said Henry V, in the "St. Crispin's Day Speech" before the battle of Agincourt in the play Henry V, by William Shakespeare.
One Vandenberg Airman witnessed the strength of the tie that binds brothers-in-arms together through generations when he received his great-uncle's WWII dog tags in a repatriation ceremony in the 576th Flight Test Squadron's conference room here, Dec. 20.
Dan Potter, a field service engineer for the Fortune 100 company, Honeywell, and the son of one of the servicemembers memorialized in the television mini-series, "Band of Brothers," presented Staff Sgt. Jason Riggs, 576th Flight Test Squadron maintenance team chief, with his great uncle's, James F. Courtney, dog tags after receiving them from a friend who found them in
an attic in Normandy, France.
"My father was in the 101st Airborne Division and a member of the, 'Band of brothers' made famous by HBO," Potter said. "Because of that, I had the opportunity to visit Normandy several times. During one of my visits, I made a bunch of acquaintances of really good Frenchmen who live in the area and one of them is Roger Delarocque."
According to Potter, Delarocque, who owns a bed and breakfast in Oglandes, a small village in Normandy, would often refer to the French people's freedom from Nazi occupation as his souvenir from WWII and would let returning servicemen stay in his home for free stating, "they paid for their rooms 70 years ago." This gratitude is what may have drove Delarocque's passion to return the tags.
"About two years ago, I received a note from Roger saying his friend had found a US Serviceman's dog tag in the attic of his 800-year-old home," Potter said. "Roger asked me if I could locate the serviceman or the family of the owners and that began a two year quest to locate the family of James Courtney, terminating today with the delivery of the dog tags."
After Potter presented Riggs with the tags, Riggs thanked all in attendance, including the people of Normandy, and was thankful the family tradition that the tags represented.
"I'm honored to know that our family tradition runs in the military, I'm in the air force, both of my brothers were in the military and my great-uncle," Riggs said. "[Finding these tags] is kind of like a puzzle that we did not know about. I want to thank the French people and let them know that we appreciate everything that was done."
Like William Shakespeare's words in the St. Crispin's Day Speech, "...we in it shall be remembered," Some were grateful for the memories gained through the discovery of the tags.
"What a priceless gift this is to Sergeant Riggs and his extended family," said Col. David Lair, 576th FLTS commander. "Prior to last week, Jason didn't know a whole lot about his uncle, who served in WWII, both his grandfather, Elmore Courtney, and his great-uncle had passed away before he was born. So, the stories of D-day were never passed along. He heard the family talk about 'Uncle Jimmy' from time-to-time, but never had the opportunity to know his great-uncle. With the gesture today, Jason's family gets back more than just an heirloom, more than just a war souvenir, they get back a piece of their family heritage and insight into a lost chapter of their American family story."
The tags were found in a section of Normandy that saw heavy combat during the early days after D-Day and today the German WWII cemetery is located just outside of Oglandes.