WASHINGTON (WAOW)--Seeing the World War II monument in Washington was a dream come true for Ray Plenge of Wisconsin Rapids, but his Honor Flight trip was also a chance to work towards another dream.
While stationed in Italy during the war, Plenge took an artillery shell to a jeweler and had it engraved with the names of his gun unit. "And my name is the last one on the shell," he said as he spoke of the souvenir.
The letters on the shell, names of soldiers who bravely fought for the United States in the 10th Mountain Division, tell a story.
"As we were traveling north in Italy, the shell disappeared out of my duffel bag. I always carried it in my duffel bag," he said.
Plenge thought he would never see the shell again, that is, until he received a letter last year from a stranger. "He said he heard of somebody that had a shell with names on it."
So the man in Italy took pictures of the shell and sent them to Plenge. Turns out, it was his shell, in the possession of an Italian couple who he said doesn't want to give it up.
Plenge exhausted all of his resources trying to get the shell back, so he turned to Representative Sean Duffy. "We're trying to use our government to work with the Italian government to get Ray his shell back," said the Congressman in an interview with Newsline 9.
One of Duffy's staff members even met Plenge at the World War II monument in Washington during the Honor Flight trip. Plenge said he couldn't sleep the night after he received the letter about the shell, and probably wouldn't sleep for a week if he ever got it back.
For now, Plenge waits. Hoping one day to hold the shell in his hands--a physical reminder of the people and places that changed his life forever.