STOCKTON -- It was a special moment Wednesday after school when Greg and Rosemary Almeida met Duc Nguyen, the Bear Creek High School sophomore who found a piece of their lost treasure.
A letter – written by Greg’s father 75 years ago -- was stolen from a storage locker last month.
On Saturday, Nguyen and dozens of other students participated in Coastal Cleanup Day, picking up trash along the north bank of Mosher Slough, when he stumbled on a piece of another family’s history.
"So it was like under a bridge of a homeless encampment, that was with a bunch of stolen mail," Nguyen explained to the couple.
He went through the mail, he found a passport, pictures and some toys.
"And I saw the piece coming out, and I saw this, and I read the letter," he said. "And I knew it was something important 'cause it was from 1941."
The letter was written Dec. 15, 1941, eight days after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
Greg’s father, George, was in the military -- stationed in Virginia and homesick, and was writing to Greg's mom.
Greg read out loud a portion of his dad's words.
"I received your telegram yesterday, asking me if I was coming home for Christmas. Well, I won't be able to go home from here because we are going to ship out before this week is over."
George was later shipped off to Europe.
"I'd never ever thought I'd get it back again. It was amazing when I first got possession of it. Just seeing his letter and now that I have it back, we won't put it in anymore storage units," Greg said.
"I'm feeling great that it's returned to the right owner. I knew it means something to someone, so I kept it," Nguyen said.
Chemistry teacher Steve Meredith says this was a Coastal Cleanup Day that holds a far greater meaning to his students.
"Whenever you get personal items that kinda connects Coastal Cleanup Day to something personal in people's lives, I think it becomes far more meaningful," Meredith said.
And an even deeper meaning for the Almeidas.
"Hope. Hope for the future. We have kids like this in our future, it's a good thing," added Greg's wife, Rosemary, with grateful tears.