Rick Jones is a mem­ber of OGCA and volun­teer for Buckeye Fire­ arms Association (BFA).

I’ve been collecting bayonets from WWI through WWII since I can remember. The M4 bayonet for the M1 Carbine has always been one of my favorites. I have the M3 fighting knife, the M4 bayonets, the M5 and M6 bayonets mostly with the original M8 scabbards and also have a few AK 47 bayonets and a couple of bayonets that fit the US Model of 1917 rifles. But finding a reasonably priced one for my ’03 Spring­ field had always eluded me.

Several years ago I found an M1 Garand bayonet at a flea market. The guy that sold it really didn’t know what it was and so I bought it for a good price. Two winters ago, I finally found the time to clean it. I wanted to bring it back into a presentable condition. As I scrubbed, I discovered a name and really felt bad that it had gotten separated from the family. They probably didn’t know where it went. I am extremely sentimental about family heirlooms, pieces of history, and just old family stuff in general.

I barely knew my Marine dad. Dad was a Marine, spent his annual two-week vacation at Camp Lejune, worked on the railroad and was gone a lot so really not remembering him or knowing him very well was a down side for me growing up. Dad died a week short of his 42nd birthday and a week after my 12th birthday. So, to better know my dad I began studying where he had been, what he had done, and where he worked. I talked with a boatload of guys he used to work with and that is how I learned about my dad. With dad’s association with the “Corp” and the Legion he was usually recruited to clean the old ’03 rifles after funeral or special services and that is where I learned to clean rifle bolts. Dad showed his care and honor while cleaning those guns and that is what sparked my interest in them. Grandmother (dad’s mother) taught me to shoot when I was 11! Mom never knew.

As I cleaned away the dirt on this simple old bayonet, I found a name scribbled on the sheath and on the bayonet itself. It read, “Ray McGraw 1946.” The name meant nothing to me, but I was certain this bayonet once meant something to him. For two years I often wondered how this bayonet got separated from its original owner. While I was certainly glad to have it, it made me sad to know someone else might be missing it.

Recently I volunteered to help with a “Friends of the NRA” event at the James Dickey Post #23 of the American Legion. The front wall has a list of names, and I was standing there reading the names of men of honor. I didn’t know these men, but I knew they were important to others.

I stood there reading the names engraved on the bricks. Suddenly I went back sev­eral bricks and reread the name. It was, “Ray McGraw.” Could this be the same Ray McGraw who put his name on my bayonet? Maybe a family member who could help me learn the history of the one in my possession?

Donna Lewis is an old childhood friend and head of the ladies auxiliary at this American Legion. I asked her to research the name and possibly contact the family for me. It took some digging and the help of other ladies, but after several weeks they found Sue Montgomery, who is the daughter of Mr. McGraw. I was able to speak with her and she led me to her brother who has two sons.

After a phone call we agreed to meet. I sat down with Ray’s son and two grandsons at a local Tim Horton’s. We looked at pictures of Mr. McGraw from the time of his service, discussed the rarity of this specific maker of the bayonet (AFH), American Fork and Hoe along with the ordinance markings.

They seemed pleased to hold this piece of history, and share stories with the stranger who brought it. I have searched long and hard for this particular model of bayonet for my collection, but I knew this one was not mine. It was an honor to present Ray’s family with their father’s, and their grandfather’s bayonet. I knew from the moment I read his name that I needed to do everything I could to return this one to its rightful family. And although my search for my collection continues, I can truly say, “MISSION AC­COMPLISHED” at returning this family heirloom back to Ray’s descendants.

On this day, Ray, his son, his son’s boys, and even this old boy all got their wish fulfilled by the transfer of one bayonet that Ray McGraw once carried on his M1 Garand in service of this great country, back to the rightful owners.