YUBA CITY -- For nearly fifty years, Michael Pomeroy has kept his Vietnam War medals, including his Purple Heart, stashed away in a closet -- locked in a brief case. They were hidden, even from his own family.
"They were really curious what was going on in that box,” said Pomeroy.
That box kept not only his medals, but his memories -- painful ones. Once an army medic, he earned a Soldier’s Medal for saving two comrades from a burning helicopter.
"You always think of the people that didn't make it,” said Pomeroy through tears, “I was going through therapy for a while with some of the veterans. They say look at all the people you saved. You think about the people you didn't save.”
Easy to see why Pomeroy was distraught when, after evacuating his home last week amid warnings the Oroville Dam's emergency spillway might fail, looters ransacked his house, stealing his medals and whatever valuables they could get their hands on.
"It just, it blew me away. I couldn't believe that people could be so cruel,” said Gaylene Pomeroy, Michael’s wife.
News of the stolen medals spread quickly. Pomeroy got messages of support from as far as New Jersey. Hundreds of people passed the message along on social media.
Sunday evening, Yuba City Police Chief Robert Landon personally returned Pomeroy's medals. The looters left them in the back of a truck in a nearby church parking lot.
“It was just like an extremely good Christmas. I was just overwhelmed at the effort,” said Pomeroy with a laugh.
Police arrested three people in connection to the theft. Pomeroy says the whole ordeal led him to open up a little more with family about his past. And while this story does have a happy ending, even the medals' return served as a bittersweet reminder of what they represent.
“It's all about the people that didn't get through. That's kind of what that brings back,” said Pomeroy.
Yuba City Police did not return calls to contribute to this story.