Fort Stewart’s former first lady, Ginger Cucolo, wife of former 3rd Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, was back in town Thursday for a special book signing of her recently released book, “Dog Tags: The History, Personal Stories, Cultural Impact and Future of Military Identification.”
Cucolo autographed copies of her new book at the Hinesville Area Arts Council and explained how she came to write a book about those little metal tags worn by U.S. military personnel for more than 100 years.
“This little piece of metal means so much to some people,” she said as she briefly discussed the history of how bodies of American soldiers were identified on the battlefield prior to the Spanish-American War (1898). “During the Civil War, soldiers on both side pinned notes with their name and home address on their uniform. The Army’s Graves Registration was assigned to issue metal identification tags to soldiers around 1906. The Marine Corps soon followed, then the Navy.”
Cucolo explained that her book is not a collection of stories about Medal of Honor winners but everyday soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen, whose service to their nation is recorded by the dog tags held dear by members of their families. She said she gathered personal stories from all over the country, stories that moved her so much she wanted to share them.
She related an account of one family whose father, a veteran with Alzheimer’s, could remember very little but that he had served his nation. His dog tags were his way of holding on to that one precious memory. Cucolo said that so many families wanted to keep the dog tags — which she said essentially are government property — among the personal effects of a deceased loved one, that the government began making duplicate copies of the dog tags to bury with the soldier’s remains and to give the original to the family.
One thing she emphasized in her research is that dog tags never were forced between the front teeth of dead soldiers, a long-held myth.
“We’ve missed Fort Stewart and Hinesville,” Cucolo said, explaining why she returned for a book signing. “Tony and I absolutely loved our three years here.”
Many of the people who came to her for an autographed copy of “Dog Tags” were friends she made while stationed here with her husband, who now works at the Pentagon.
“As we’re coming toward Veterans Day — and I know I’m not in the Army — but I want to thank soldiers and all veterans,” she said. “I’m just so grateful for their service. This book is for them. So many veterans have so many stories and still want to hear them and share them.”
Cucolo’s book is available through Barnes & Noble, Amazon or at www.dogtaghistory.com.