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By Robert Richardson

CEDAR BLUFF, Ala. (WBMA/CNN) - An Alabama woman received an unexpected item in the mail. It was the Army helmet her father wore during the second world war in France.

"It's like having dad back home with us," said Chris Abney Dendy.

William Luther Abney, Jr. died in 1997, more than 50 years after he returned home from World War II. His army helmet returned two weeks ago.

"To know that he put it on his head and wore it, it's like being there with him," said Chris.

A dentist from Paris recently acquired the helmet from his uncle, and noticed it had military identification.

"He found our father's name inside the helmet here, William L. Abney, and his Army ID number, and he went online and tracked it down," said Chris.

Chris was surprised to learn France has a public database, listing many of the American soldiers who served there during the war. It listed her father's hometown, and from there he found cemetery records listing Abney's daughters.

He found an address in La Fayette, Ga. and mailed a letter, but that address hasn't been used for 20 years.

"One of the people at the post office knew my sister, and recognized the name, and even though it was in the dead letter file, she forwarded it to my sister and it's just been a wonderful thing," said Chris.

The family got in touch with the Frenchman, and he quickly shipped the helmet. He declined to accept payment for postage, saying the French are indebted to the men like Chris's father.

Chris would like to donate these items to the WWII Museum in New Orleans, but hopes to find some more information first.

"The great mystery remains, where has the helmet been and why did my dad make it home without his helmet?" she said.

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