Through tenacious detective work, the mystery of a lost and found World War I medal has been solved. A resident of Wanaque, New Jersey, found what appeared to be a very old medal along the side of a road in the borough. Believing that it was inadvertently dropped, the Good Samaritan turned it over to the police in Wanaque. Police Chief Robert Kronyak cleaned the medal and found that it dated back to 1917. The inscription read: “Presented to Dan Battaglia by the people of Wanaque Borough, N.J. in grateful recognition of patriotic service in the World War.”
The doughboy had never married, so locating surviving family members was no easy matter. The police enlisted the public’s help and reached out to local war veterans groups. Eventually the search led the police to two family members, Tom Luciani and Janice Sannick. They were presented with their cousin’s medal at police headquarters. Luciani and Sannick, whose fathers each served during World War II, were grateful to police and to the resident who found the medal. “It’s a nice thing to keep something like that in the family,” Luciani said.
Dan Battaglia was born in 1889 and died in 1978. He was buried at Christ The King Cemetery in Franklin Lakes. In the small town, military service is a source of pride; Dan Battaglia’s name is even on a monument outside the police department. He was a cousin of Luciani’s grandmother on his mother’s side and he was a cousin of Sannick’s grandfather on her father’s side.
Sannick said she remembered Battaglia as a quiet, older man who often joined the family for holiday dinners at her grandfather’s house. Asked how she thought the medal ended up where it did, Sannick said there was an old railroad track bed in the area. “Dan himself could’ve had it on him,” she said. “They used to walk along the old railroad track bed.”
When Capt. Kenneth Fackina was first tasked with finding family members he thought it would be a simple task. “We have Battaglias in town,” he said. “I saw the name and figured on my lunch break, I would look at our computer, find a Battaglia and make a phone call. In a half hour I’d be bringing it to them.”
It wasn’t so simple. It took about two weeks to track down Sannick. He also spent some time making sure the cousins were the closest relatives he could find. Capt. Fackina said the police received assistance from the public after the first news reports of the medal were published last month. He received emails relating to Battaglia’s genealogy and starting connecting the various dots. The chief also reached out to seniors in the borough and word got back to the Wanaque Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Someone from the VFW or American Legion contacted my dad and then he asked me about it,” Luciani said. He said it’s an honor to have a relative who is a World War I veteran and that they will cherish the medal and their cousin’s memory.