INDIANA, USA — An Indiana woman is searching for family heirlooms she recently mailed through the U.S. Postal Service.
“I didn’t realize it was as serious as it is," said Barbara Shields.
Shields is referring to something she never worried about -- until now.
“I have sent letters in the mail with money in them and I’ve sent gift cards in the mail and have never given it a thought," she said.
A couple of weeks ago, she spotted our months-long investigation into the U.S. Postal Service.
She contacted the FOCUS team, saying the Postal Service had disappointed her, losing her precious family heirlooms.
“On October the 13 I mailed a set of dog tags that belonged to my husband’s uncle from World War II,” she said.
“Dog tags” are a type of identification worn by members of the military. Shields' uncle, Trewhitt Shields, wore them during his service.
“He passed away a few years ago when he was 95 years old," she said.
Knowing her niece would cherish them, she mailed them in a card from a Post Office by her home in Indiana. She says she told the woman at the counter what was inside the card.
“She weighed the envelope and she said everything looked fine. And she mailed it," Shields said.
But she said when her niece in Alabama finally received the envelope 10 days later, there was a problem.
“The card was ripped open and there was nothing in it… I feel horrible," she said. “My goal is that you Paula can help us locate these dog tags.”
We asked the U.S. Postal Service for answers. In an emailed statement, Susan Wright, a USPS spokesperson, told us in part:
“The Postal Service sincerely apologizes to Ms. Shields for this unfortunate situation. Every mailpiece is important and we understand her distress at the possible loss of a family heirloom. We are actively searching for the missing dog tags and are hopeful they will soon be located.”
We also asked them how often mail is lost or damaged. Wright told us: “I don’t have that information.”
So we filed a Freedom of Information Act request. We’ll let you know what we get back.
“The dog tags are out there somewhere," said Shields.
Shields is praying someone will find them. She calls them cherished family memories of her uncle’s courage, love, and sacrifice.
“The sense of pride in the World War II veterans is overwhelming, and that era is going away," she said.
As we approach the busy holiday mailing season, the U.S. Postal Service said customers should avoid mailing rigid or bulky items in a regular envelope as they can become separated during automated mail processing. Instead, they recommend mailing these items in a padded envelope. This includes gift cards, keys, and flash drives.
Customers can search for a missing item on USPS.com. Under the HELP tab, choose Finding Missing Mail, then select Start your Missing Mail Search. A search can be initiated even if the mailpiece does not have a tracking number, according to the U.S. Postal Service. New customers will need to create an account.