Willie Wilkins, 90, was the guest of honor at Wednesday's ceremony in Newark to celebrate the 68th anniversary of V-E Day, the day Nazi Germany surrendered to the Allies, and he was presented with his dog tags and the state of New Jersey's Meritorious Service medal, the Newark Patch reported Thursday.
Wilkins lost his dog tags while serving in France 69 years ago and they were found 12 years ago by Anne-Marie Crespo while she was tending to her garden in Istres, France.
"This is a wonderful story that completes a circle that began with a Newark native's service to our country in history's greatest war. We are honored by Willie Wilkins, and it is truly appropriate to help return these artifacts to him and to recognize him today, on the anniversary of the final defeat of Adolf Hitler," Newark Mayor Cory Booker said.
Wilkins' daughter, Carol, accompanied him to the ceremony.
"I haven't known such joy in my heart since my mother died in 2007," Carol Wilkins said. "When I got the call from the Veterans' Administration that they had found Daddy's dog tags, we were so happy. I want to thank the mayor and everyone involved for returning these tags."