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Stolen medals returned to brother of Vietnam vet

Feb. 12, 2014 - 01:07PM   |  
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KALISPELL, MONT. — Law enforcement officers in Kalispell and Flathead County went above and beyond the call of duty to recover stolen military medals that belonged to a Vietnam War veteran.

“I know everyone’s done way more than they normally do on this and it’s super,” Greg Smith said Tuesday. Smith reported a shadow box containing his late brother’s military uniform and medals was stolen from his frame shop in Kalispell on Jan. 9. Court records say the suspected thief tried to pawn some of the medals and scattered others around town.

Flathead County Sheriff’s Deputy Colten O’Connell found James Smith’s Purple Heart by searching a snow bank with a metal detector.

The recovered medals were sent to Northwest Territorial Mint in Texas, which reconditioned them at no charge, Officer Dave Massie said.

“They look better than they ever have,” Greg Smith told officers who gathered Tuesday to return the medals.

“I don’t have words for it, really,” Smith said. “It’s so great to have this stuff back.”

Police Chief Roger Nasset said officers undertook a “concerted team effort” to locate the medals.

Some of the items had to be replaced, including James Smith’s dog tags. Officers were unable to recover his uniform or the shadow box, The Daily Inter Lake reported.

Nasset said the work wasn’t a burden, “it was an honor.”

The suspect in the case, Sean Smith, 25, of Kalispell, is charged with misdemeanor theft in Kalispell Municipal Court. He also faces other theft, forgery and drug charges. He is not related to Greg Smith.

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