Within hours after a story about Dutch man seeking the family of a World War II veteran whose dog tag he found hit the Great Bend Tribune, the phones and social media exploded with people offering their help to make the reunion happen.
Earlier this month, Rico Peters, a 29-year-old carpenter-turned-ambulance driver found a dog tag belonging to Jesse Glen Burris while using a metal detector in the forests around his home in Kerkrade in the southeast part of the Netherlands. He has a passion for World War II and operates an informal museum honoring those who fought to defend his homeland, especially the Americans.
He reached out to the Tribune via email in an effort to find Burris’ relatives so he could return this meaningful artifact to them. He found them.
According to his research, Burris was born in Great Bend in 1916. He joined the Army in 1941 as a warrant officer. He survived the war and died in 2001 at the age of 85, and is buried in Arkansas City.
However, he also learned that his wife Joyce, whom he married in 1947, was still living at a retirement facility in Arkansas City. The couple had two children, both of whom have passed away.
After numerous phone calls and emails, the Tribune was contacted by Gary Amerine of Great Bend, one of Burris’ nephews. Gary suggested the paper contact his sister, Carol Amerine Moore of Hutchinson, who routinely visits Joyce, and the family has been in touch with Peters.
This past weekend was the most recent visit. “She was so excited to see that,” Carol said of Joyce reading the article, adding she is looking forward to learning more.
It was Carol who filled in the blanks on this story.
The stainless-steel tag also includes Burris’ name “Jessie G. Burris” and “Mrs. M. Amerine, Great Bend, Kansas, Rt. 1.”
Carol explained that Burris was one of three children – there was an older brother Roy and a younger sister Doris. Their parents died when Doris was young so she spent time living with Roy and his wife, and Glen.
Doris married Maurice Amerine in 1942. She is listed as the next of kin on the tag as Mrs. M. Amerine.
Doris is also Carol and Gary’s mother.
And, as fate would have it, one of Burris’ three grandsons, Aaron Hestand, is in the Army and stationed in Germany, just over 500 miles from Kerkrade which is near the German border. Carol hopes he and Peters can arrange a meeting.
Either way, two small communities separated by nations and an ocean, have been drawn together. Seven decades have been spanned.
“It is truly amazing how all the media is taking over this story,” Peters said. “I’ve been contacted by some relatives. With their names I continued the search. To bad both children of Jesse died too young.”
Peters said he hopes to get in touch with Burris’ wife Joyce. “The people of VFW (of which Burris was a member) offered their help to me and will sending a letter to Joyce with my contact information.
“This whole story accentuates again why I love the States,” Peters said.
After the story appeared in the Tribune, it was picked up by the Associated Press and ran in newspapers across the country. Among those who read it was 21-year-old Bart Verstraeten who has established a new European-based online magazine related to World Wars I and II – “Historical War Militaria Magazine” (found at www.historicalwarmilitariamagazine.com).
Verstraeten contacted the Tribune, requesting permission to reprint the story in his publication. It was posted on his site Aug. 19.
In the meantime, arrangements are being made to return the dog tag to Burris’ family.
“This has been a real neat experience,” Carol said. It’s been exciting for her family to work with Peters to make this reunion possible.