After finding a military shadow box in the trash, Exeter resident Harry Wagner is determined to find out how it got there


EXETER – A little more than a month ago, Harry Wagner was having a fine day walking through the streets of downtown Exeter. He was enjoying the weather, checking in on the progress of construction on E Street and ready to grab a bite to eat. He came across a piece of torn cardboard on the sidewalk, stooped down to pick it up, and then tossed it toward a public trash can to do his part to keep downtown clean.

When the piece fell short, he walked over to the trash can to drop it in and noticed a small white star beneath the trash. The star wasn’t a print but rather something stitched or embroidered. Curious, he sifted through the trash to see what it was only to find it was a shadow box with a folded U.S. flag, a gold and black medal and a certificate. The certificate authenticates that the flag was carried on combat patrol by Delta Company, 1-184th Infantry, California Army National Guard in honor of Linda Taylor by Spc. Frank D. Dillard. The medal was engraved with the words “Operation Iraqi Freedom – 2004-2008.”

“The lack of caring is what gets me,” Wagner said. “People don’t have respect for anything anymore. Are we that lost as a society?”

Wagner decided he was going to try and track down the owner of the shadow box or at least find someone in the 1-184th Infantry to give it to. He had little luck with internet searches and took the item to the National Guard Armory in Visalia. All they could do was give him a 1-800 number to call, which he did and provided them with the information.

Wagner said he isn’t sure if anything will come of his inquiry, so he decided to put in the newspaper in the hopes that someone may know either Spc. Dillard, Ms. Taylor or someone in the infantry group. Wagner said he isn’t sure why anyone would throw away something so sacred, but he said it is a lesson in our nation’s history and patriotism to find out. Wagner is asking anyone with information about the shadow box to call  him at 559-568-9337.

“I’d like to think they just didn’t know what it was or it caught picked up with something else,” Wagner said. “But if that’s the case, people need to be educated on our military and the sacrifices they make.”

The Wagner family knows all too well the sacrifice as their son Bryan lost a leg and nearly lost his life.

A specialist in the 529th MP Company, Bryan was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Army in 2007. At 11:57 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2007 he was gunner atop the lead Humvee of a convoy transporting a battalion sergeant when it was struck by two improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The 6’2”, 260-pounder was pulled out of the vehicle and dragged to another Humvee and taken to the nearest Forward Operating Base for medical attention. After bleeding through several tourniquets, he was eventually taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 21.

During his two years there, Bryan underwent over a dozen surgeries to treat burns, remove multiple pieces of shrapnel, fight against infection and more significantly, and amputate his right leg just below the knee. Doctors told Bryan he would never walk the same, but two days after his release from the hospital he went skiing on mono-sky. A few weeks later, he tried a 75-mile bicycle ride from the Washington, D.C. to Annapolis, Maryland.

Now 33 years old, Bryan is married with one son, 1-year-old Garrett, and another one on the way in Florida. He recently finished grad school at Jacksonville University and is now working toward his doctorate in occupational therapy.

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