Butch Maisel speaks with students at the museum at The Boys' Latin School of Maryland in Baltimore.

He's on a mission to return dog tags found in a war zone to families. Here's what inspires him

Updated 7:54 AM ET, Fri November 12, 2021

(CNN)Marian Cook Haddock keeps a weathered picture of her uncle Pete in the living room of her home in New Bern, North Carolina. Pete, in a freshly starched khaki uniform, gazes confidently at the camera.

Haddock was just a tot when her lanky uncle joined the US Army and was shipped off to the Philippines. She doesn't remember much about that time -- except for the great sadness that followed when Charles E. "Pete" Cook Jr. was reported missing after Japanese forces took Corregidor, a tiny rock-strewn island in Manila Bay, during World War II.
"The only thing I can remember is my grandma being upset," Haddock said. It took many agonizing months for Cook's parents to learn he was presumed dead.
His mother wore her youngest son's Purple Heart on her jacket and was buried with the medal when she died in 1964.
Pvt. Pete Cook's dog tag
The soldier's remains have never been found, leaving the family no true closure. This fall, a small sliver of metal changed that.
Butch Maisel, who co-curates a military history museum at The Boys' Latin School of Maryland in Baltimore, bestowed upon them a precious gift: a dog tag Cook wore at Corregidor.
Maisel purchased nearly a dozen dog tags found in the Philippines and has set about getting them to relatives.
Those involved in forwarding dog tags know the items have great importance to families, that they are reminders of the role their relatives had in the American story.
Much of Maisel's inspiration is an older half brother he never knew.