Two friends reunite 97-year-old WWII veteran with discharge papers found in old dresser
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS) —
Two local friends came across discharge papers of a World War II veteran.
Kyle Payne, a manager for Habitat Restore, with Habitat for Humanity, was clearing out an old dresser. That’s when he found the documents and called his friend, Dan Beard, who is also a veteran.
After some research, they realized the near century old and decorated veteran was still alive.
"I’ve returned a few small things here and there to veterans,” said Dan Beard.
Soon, they would go on a trip to witness a special reunion between a World War II veteran and his discharge papers.
"Nothing to this magnitude,” said Beard. “Nothing this important."
The pair of friends found the documents clearing out a dresser for Habitat for Humanity.
"The first thing I told [Payne],” said Beard. “Was we're going tomorrow; we're dropping off these documents to him tomorrow."
That was it. They got on the road.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Payne.
They tracked the war hero to a nursing home in Taylorville… and that’s when they all met.
"I’ve got something for you,” said Beard. “It's your honorable discharge paperwork, your certificate, and your social security card."
They met 97-year-old Jay Arden Deem, Saturday morning.
"Let me open it up for you, here you go. Got that for you from Mo. Vernon,” said Beard.
“Honorable discharge,” said Deem.
Deem battled in combat, the submarine crew, and was the chief radio technician.
He even received a good conduct medal.
"That was a long time ago,” said Deem.
The discharged papers were dated October 1945.
"Honorable discharge papers from the Navy,” said Beard. “You were on the USS Puffer right?"
“Yup. On the Puffer,” said Deem.
Now he's battling something else.
"No, I don't remember much about that,” said Deem.
He was diagnosed with dementia over ten years ago.
“Thank you," said Beard.
“Yup,” said Deem. “That was nice of you."
“I had to learn a lot about you,” said Beard.
“I'll say,” Deem replied, which made everyone laugh. “You know more about me; I’ve forgotten."
"He's still got a pretty good sense of humor,” said Payne. “And it's a nice end to a short journey that only took about three days. But it's nice to get everything to him."
"That it's back in his hands and his family will appreciate it,” said Beard. “And it’s kind of what's left of his service, so I want to make sure it's back in his hands."
There’s a book illustrating stories on that submarine where Deem served.
It’s called: The USS Puffer in World War II: A history of the submarine and its wartime crew, by Craig R. McDonald.
McDonald was one of Jay’s fellow crew members of the time.
Beard and Payne talked with McDonald to help find Deem.