Colorado Springs

Dog tags returned to Fort Carson family 53 years later

Dogs tags returned to family after 53 years in the dirt

COLORADO SPRINGS, Co. - A former Fort Carson family has extra reason to be thankful this week, after a group of soldiers recently went way beyond the normal call of duty to return a lost possession.

It was more than a military memento, it was a piece of their family history.

You'd have a hard time finding a family with more military history than Leroy Sutliff.

Not only did he himself serve overseas in World War II and Korea, but his wife also served as a secretary in the Army, and 12 of his forefathers are buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.

They have served in every major U.S. conflict dating back to the American Revolution.

With that mind, it's shocking to think that Sutliff could lose something as important as his military dog tags, but that's exactly what happened while training at Fort Carson in 1964.

53 years later, as part of an exercise called "Operation Raider Storm", Sgt. Ryan Nutter with the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment came across them while digging a foxhole for protection from the enemy.

"It's was pretty easy to find," recalls Nutter, "we walked up there, thought this was a great spot, looked around, and they were just laying on top."

The tags had Leroy Sutliff's name, ID number, tetanus shot records, and blood type.

Sgt. Nutter immediately notified his platoon sergeant, SFC Philip Grawzis.

"I've been in the army 13 years, and I've never found anything like that," said Grawzis.

They knew they had to try and find the soldier, or at least the soldier's family.

One might think that process would involve going through old military records, discharge papers, or otherwise.

However, that wasn't the case at all.

In 2017, all they needed was Facebook.

Sgt. Grawzis simply typed in the name, and found a "Leroy Sutliff" in Chandler, Arizona.

He had the correct family, but the wrong Leroy.

The page belonged to Sutliff's son who shared the same name, a retired airman himself.
"I saw a couple of old army photos," explains Grawzis, "so I thought 'you know what, I'm going to go ahead and send him a message, and see if he actually knows this guy, if he's related to him, or if these are his dog tags."

Initially, the younger Sutliff was skeptical.

"It was like a text message over messenger, and it wasn't somebody I recognized at all.  I had no idea who it was.  And he even started off with, 'Excuse me sir, I have a strange question to ask you,' and I thought immediately... scam," he said.

But when they Leroy Sutliff the photo of his father's tags, the doubts disappeared.

So a few weeks and nearly 800 miles later, the son arrived back at the post he barely remembers from his childhood, to personally receive his father's tags.

Even as they fell into his hand, he was still in a state of disbelief.

"To have this come out of the blue, I was just in awe that a piece of something dug out of the earth had his name on it, and that they found me and wanted to return them to the family, that just means the world to me," said Sutliff.

But for soldiers of the 4-9, a group with its own rich history in battle, showing respect for a fellow soldier past or present was just part of their training.

"Their family goes all the way back to the beginning of the nation," said Nutter, "so having that, it's a piece of history, so giving it back, it's a great feeling."

Sutliff said the dedication restores his own faith in future generations, and only wished his father, who passed away in 1996, could have been here to see it.

"He would be real proud of everybody here that has everything to do with getting this back to a military family.  It would probably brings tears to his eyes as it did mine," he said.

Like a lot of war veterans, Leroy senior didn't talk a lot about his time in the military.

However, the recovery of these tags has inspired his son to learn more about his father's service, so that those details along with the dog tags can be passed on to future generations.

comments powered by Disqus

Must See Videos

  • Stories of inspiration and strength from those at the 117Fire
  • Volunteers help ease frustrations for Hanover fire evacuees
  • Crews work to find and eliminate hot spots in Hanover
  • Memorial Central Hospital in Colorado Springs gets new status
  • Five homeowners return to destruction after Barnett Fire near Pueblo