YUBA CITY -- The words don't come easy for Mike Pomeroy when he talks about his medals of valor, including a Purple Heart.
Medals that were securely hidden away in a briefcase for decades, are now gone.
On Sunday during the Oroville Dam spillway emergency, Pomeroy and his wife were evacuated from their Yuba City home. A thief broke in and stole the medals.
"Hasn't been opened hardly in 50 years. They've never seen it," Pomeroy said before breaking down. "It's not something you talk about. One day, you'd be able to tell them, but... "
"He wanted these medals to be given to his grandsons," Pomeroy's wife, Gaylene, said.
Pomeroy earned the medals after risking his life as an Army medic during the Vietnam War.
"The fact that someone would stoop so low to take a part of a person's life like that is just unbelievable," Gaylene said.
On Monday, the couple’s son came back to check on his parents' house and discovered the front door wide open.
Upstairs, their bedroom was a mess.
Gaylene’s jewelry was taken, including family heirlooms.
But it’s what was tucked away in the brief case that they desperately want returned.
"Almost everything you can replace. There's things you can't. And that's what really, really gets to you," Pomeroy said.
The thieves left the certificates that accompanied those medals and a written explanation from a commander of just how Pomeroy earned his Purple Heart.
Almost 50 years ago, his air ambulance responded to a military aircraft down in enemy territory, he hoisted himself onto the ground and saved two airman from the burning wreckage.
When Pomeroy opened that brief case, he opened up old wounds of heroics he's never spoken of to his loved ones, even his wife of 31 years.
Now, they wait for -- and hope -- the thief who broke into their house during their time of need has a change of heart.
"Whoever did it, if there's a way you can return that stuff to my father ... I'm sorry .. it's just not right to do that to a hero. It's just not right, I'm sorry," the couple's son, Kevin Pomeroy, added.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Marysville Police Department at (530) 749-3900 or the Yuba County Sheriff's Department at (530) 749-7777.