Tampa man's mission: Get these medals home

Tampa man's mission: Get these medals home

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A Tampa Bay area man's military medal mission has come to a successful conclusion, thanks to the power of social media.

It all began last Friday when William Nieves and his son stumbled across the medals during a search for a new drill at a pawn shop on South Dale Mabry. He was shocked that someone would leave them there.

"My first thought; I was completely outraged," said Nieves, who lives in Temple Terrace. "Why is this in a pawn shop? Once I explained it to my son, he asked me, 'Why is it here?' As a father, as a husband, as a man, you can't even really offer any good explanation."

The case was engraved with a soldier's name and some dates. It also included dozens of personal medals and a folded American flag.

We spoke to the pawn shop, and employees wouldn't disclose who brought in the items, though they said it had been some time. They were happy to sell them to someone who appreciated their potential sentimental value.

"My son asked me if we were going to leave it here, and I told him absolutely not," Nieves continued.

He then called his wife and told her what he found. He said he bought the package of items for $100.

Nieves took to social media to try to get information. He had a few hits but nothing concrete -- until the story was posted on the FOX 13 Facebook page early this afternoon. Within a few minutes, it had been seen by thousands of people.

One of those, apparently, was the original owner of the medals. He reached out to Nieves and, while he said he was grateful to Nieves for trying to help, the man said he was not interested in being part of a news story.

Nieves, who isn't in the military but has friends and family who serve, returned the medals to the man this afternoon.

"I feel like there are a lot of people out there who really would have done the same thing I did," he offered.

Editor's note: Based on the medal owner's request, FOX 13 opted to remove his name from this updated version of the story.

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