A U.S. soldier’s government-issued Bible that was lost on the battlefield during World War II has found its way back to the soldier’s family more than 70 years after he originally misplaced it.
Joe Bob Sparks was on the battlefield in Europe when he found the Army-issued Bible and decided to keep it, bringing the New Testament back to Texas with him after the war. Sparks died in 2003, but his nephew, Patrick Ickes, was intrigued years later when he found a date, name and address inside of the Bible, The Florida-Times Union reported.
“I’m a Christian and I love Bibles, I really love old Bibles,” Ickes told the outlet. “I asked my aunt about it and she said, ‘Oh, your Uncle Joe found it on a battlefield in World War II.’ She might have said France, but I’m not sure.”
Either way, he wanted to dig a bit deeper into the book’s history to try and find the original owner.
The date inside the book was Nov. 19, 1944, and the next of kin listed was Mrs. J.M. Duncan, the owner’s mother. So, Icked started some internet searches in an effort to find the Bible’s original owner and hit some dead ends.
After he turned to his sister, Mary Budrejko, who is a bit more prolific online, the duo started making progress.
They found a Duncan family member in Westminster, S.C. — the location written in the Bible — but it was the wrong person. But, Westminster is a small town and it didn’t take long for that lead to guide Ickes and Budrejko to Danny Duncan, son of the Bible’s original owner, Johnie Duncan.
Budrejko was elated when she connected to Duncan’s relatives, telling WYFF-TV that she believes it was truly a “God thing.”
“I just felt the hand of God in this whole thing,” she said. “Oh my gosh, I was so excited. I couldn’t call my brother fast enough. (I said), ‘I just I found them!”
Johnie Duncan, like Joe Bob Sparks, had survived World War II, though he suffered a serious injury that blew off half of his ear. Doctors reattached it and he ended up staying in the armed services for 26 years before retiring; he died in 1997 at the age of 79.
Despite Duncan never mentioning to his kids before his death that he lost the Bible, Danny Duncan said that having the book back — and knowing that strangers spent so much time trying to track down his family — has been touching.
“I carry it with me. It does make me feel closer to him,” Danny Duncan told the Florida Times-Union. “I can only imagine, when I first held it in my hands, I wondered, what has this Bible seen? It was six years before he married my mother. He was 22 years old. I know he was scared to death.”
Duncan also noted that his dad wrote a simple message at the back of the Bible: “Let us pray for peace.'”