A veteran’s mystery

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 9, 2013

The dog tags Chesser pulled from the envelope were her father’s from World War II.

The dog tags Chesser pulled from the envelope were her father’s from World War II.

When Kathy Chesser Gantt pulled the padded envelope from the mailbox, she never imagined the treasure it would hold – her father’s World War II dog tags; however, how they came to be in the sender’s possession is a mystery that will never be solved.

It was 1943 and Carl Greil Chesser – Greil to his friends – decided to ditch his last semester at Red Level High School to join the U.S. Navy.

With so much concern a focus on the war with Japan, Chesser wanted to serve his county. After boot camp, he was sent to base atop the Old Mesa Mountain on the Mexican border. While there, he amassed skill in inventory and parts supply – a skill he’d parlay after the war into a successful business that is still runs today under the Carquest name – and a friendship that is both puzzling and heartwarming to his family.

Gantt said she vaguely remembers her father talking about the man she knows only as “Mr. Harrod.”

“In fact, I can’t even tell you his first name,” she said. “Last year, I received the package from Tacoma, Wash. I can remember thinking, ‘I don’t know anyone from there.’

“But I opened it and inside was a note and a pair of dog tags,” she said. “It was from a man named Carl Harrod. He told me he had been going through some of his dad’s things and found my dad’s dog tags from World War II.

“He said our dads met and became fast friends when they served in the Navy together during the war,” she said. “In fact, Carl’s dad thought so much of my dad that he named his son Carl after Daddy.

“I was blown away,” she said.

Gantt said the two metal discs were inscribed with her father’s name, Social Security number, and other information. One interesting – and puzzling – addition to the set was a paper Alabama Department of Revenue sales tax token.

“I don’t even know what that was used for, let alone why he had it on there,” she said.

And unfortunately, that’s only one question that will never be answered. Chesser died at this May. He was 89. He’d battled Alzheimer’s and was never able to give clues into his life as a soldier, his lasting friendship or why he left his dog tags with his friend.

“Dad was such a likeable, easy-going guy,” Gantt said. “I can understand why people liked him.”

After the way, Chesser returned to Andalusia, married and, along with Thaxton Brannon, opened B and C Auto Parts. In 2000, Chesser returned to Red Level High School and was awarded his high school diploma.

The elder Mr. Harrod also passed away, Gantt said.

“So now, we will never know the mystery of the dog tags,” she said.