For as long as men have fought in wars, they've thought to carry good-luck charms.

In most cases, the items are just a little something from home - a photograph, a watch, maybe a prayer card.

Colin Senavitis had his grandfather's dog tags.

The tags had served Arthur J. Carter well during World War II. He fought in the Invasion of Normandy in 1944, came home to Philadelphia and raised a family. Carter died in 2007 at age 87.

When Senavitis - who grew up on a steady diet of his grandfather's war stories - shipped over to Afghanistan with the Army's 101st Airborne Division in 2008, his first thought was to bring the tags.

"I wanted to bring him with me for good luck," he said. "I looked at them like a little heirloom. I even got them tattooed on my left arm."

Senavitis, 21, of the Far Northeast, was wearing his grandfather's dog tags last Feb. 9 when he was shot in the ankle and hip by enemy fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan.

The bullets shattered the bones in his ankle, but Senavitis - who later was awarded a Purple Heart - said that he believed that the tags had done their job.

"I didn't die," he said. "I feel like my grandfather was looking out for me."

Flash forward to Dec. 19, the day Philadelphia was clobbered by a massive snowstorm. Senavitis, home on holiday leave, went to a party at the Lincoln Motel, on Lincoln Highway in Trevose, and stopped at a Wawa across the street.

The next day, he said, he did some Christmas shopping at the Franklin Mills Mall.

Somewhere along the way, the unthinkable happened: He lost the dog tags.

"Since I got back , I put the tags on a climber ring with my car keys," Senavitis said. "And then I lost them."

Senavitis said that he frantically searched the motel, the Wawa and the mall, to no avail.

He's heartsick over the missing tags, as is his grandfather's widow, Margaret Carter.

"I know it sounds crazy, but it has sentimental value to us," Carter said. "I'm praying someone finds them and just returns them."

In addition to the emotional attachment, the tags are important to Senavitis for another reason: The lost ring also contains the key to barracks in Fort Campbell, Ky., where he returns Jan. 3 to finish out his stint in the army.

"I'll probably get in trouble for that," Senavitis said.