Police in New Mexico keeping eye out for stolen WWII medals

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Roy Hopper survived the Normandy invasion and a prisoner of war camp during World War II.

Now, Hopper, 89, faces another challenge: Trying to get back military medals — including a Bronze Star for bravery — that were stolen from his home last month while he was in the hospital.

The Albuquerque Police Department and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, are leading the effort to help Hopper.

Detectives are watching pawn shops and antique stores for the framed service medals, Albuquerque police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said Wednesday. Hopper’s name is inscribed on the back of the medals, authorities said.

Heinrich, D-New Mexico, told KOB-TV that his staff is working on getting replacement medals for Hopper.

“I hope … he can get his original medals back with his name inscribed on the back,” Heinrich told the station. “If that’s not possible, we’re here to make sure he gets replacement medals for every single medal he’s earned.”

Military services work on request for replacement medal for veterans at no cost, according to the National Archives website. This includes family members with the signed authorization from veterans, the website says.

In 1991, Hopper was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroic efforts during World War II. Hopper participated in the Normandy Invasion before being captured by the Germans. He spent nine months in a camp for prisoners of war.

Investigators searched Hopper’s home for evidence, but they didn’t find any fingerprints, police said. Investigators said they believe the suspect was wearing gloves.

Guns and cash were also missing from Hopper’s home. No arrests have been made.

Terri Stewart, co-owner of Stewart’s Military Antiques in Mesa, Arizona, said it’s difficult to put a price tag on WWII medals like the Bronze Star.

“It all depends on if his name is inscribed on the back and if the medals come with proper documents,” Stewart said.

In a separate incident, another World War II veteran was robbed at his home in Carson City, Nevada.

The Secret Witness program is offering a $1,500 reward for the arrest and prosecution of suspects who robbed the 101-year-old veteran during the Memorial Day weekend.

The robbers forced their way into the home of the Air Force veteran around 5 a.m. Sunday looking for a non-existent safe, authorities said. One of the robbers had a gun.

The victim, Jim Sorentino, told KRNV-TV that he lives alone with a caretaker in a gated community. His home was ransacked, and the thieves stole a wristwatch, pocketknife and a wallet with about $30 in it, Sorentino said.

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