Dog digs up dog tags, Korean Veteran grateful to get them back

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Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky. - Joe Tharp was enjoying his dinner at Parkview Nursing and Rehab and a visit from his son Tuesday night when someone else stopped by his room.

"I looked up at the cop and said, 'What the hell did I do now?" Tharp laughed. Deputy Sheriff Jason Walters told him, he was there because of something Emma did.

Emma is a black lab puppy with a passion for digging in her backyard. Her best finds end up where Gerri McNeil, her owner, can find them. Monday, Emma brought her a pair of dog tags and she knew she couldn't throw them away.  

"You just get that feeling," she said. "It just kind of gives you goose bumps and you think there's more to it." With family members in the military, she also knew how important they can be to the veteran.

"It's part of who they are."

She made an attempt to contact the name on the tags, Joseph Tharp, but couldn't make much progress. That's when she called the McCracken County Sheriff's Department and Walters came to get them. He, too, felt like he needed to find Tharp or his family.

It only took a couple of hours, a few wrong numbers, and a family member who led Walters to Parkview.

"I'm proud that I could have returned them to a war veteran," he said.

Tharp is surprised and grateful everyone went through the trouble. "I didn't know where they we're lost at. I mean, they wouldn't have been lost if I knew where they were at, you know?"

Tharp did live in the same area as McNeil back when he was enlisted, but he can't figure out how they would have ended up in the woods. He is glad to have them back as a reminder of his five years as a Marine.

He said he enlisted towards the end of the Korean war and worked as a mechanic on tanks. He said he never thought he would never see the tags again.

"I'll keep them a little better than I did the first time," he said laughing.

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