24 military medals stolen during California dam evacuation

Tom Miller
Published: .
Updated: .

YUBA CITY, Calif. (KCRA) - For nearly 50 years, Mike Pomeroy kept the records and memories of his military service locked inside a black suitcase, tucked away in his home in the back of a closet.

He's battled PTSD ever since he left the army in 1968, and to this day, he still struggles to talk about his time in Vietnam.

His wife said she didn't know that Mike Pomeroy was awarded 24 military medals or what he went through during his time with the U.S. Army.

"Well to tell you the truth, I only knew that my husband was a highly decorated war veteran, because he had been so private. I didn't know, and still really don't know the extent of the commendations he received," Gaylene Pomeroy told KCRA, our NBC station in Sacramento.

The truth behind what Pomeroy went through as a young man came pouring out this week -- but not on his terms.

When Yuba City issued an evacuation order Sunday after severe erosion was spotted on the emergency spillway at Lake Oroville and threatened to collapse, the couple left their home.

When they returned, the couple found their house was broken into, and Pomeroy's Purple Heart and the other medals, were gone.

“The people that stole them, I don’t know why they took them, they’re nothing to them,” Mike Pomeroy said. “They were really a traumatic part of my life, and I know I didn’t stand around to get them.”

With the case containing the medals, certificate and photos now open, Pomeroy is sharing this hidden part of his life with his family.

He was drafted by the army when he was 19 years old and served as an army medic for 21 months beginning in 1967. He earned his Purple Heart after a mortar exploded just feet away from him, sending shrapnel into his arm.

“The medals were to be passed down to my family, and then they could sort out what grandpa did or what grandpa didn’t do,” Mike Pomeroy said.

While the medals commemorate a challenging time in his life, they mean nothing to the person who took them.

“I don’t know why someone would want to take that from somebody -- take a part of their life away,” Gaylene Pomeroy said.

Yuba City saw its share of burglaries and theft during the evacuation period. Police reported 10 burglaries in less than 48 hours, which is above average for that time period.

A laptop, jewelry and cash were also taken from the Pomeroys, but many other high-end items were left untouched.

The couple isn't expecting to ever get that stuff back, but they do hope whoever took the medals will realize they are worth much more in the hands of the man who earned them.

“They were irreplaceable," Mike Pomeroy said. "They were meant to be passed on.”

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