Family heirloom, Christmas gifts stolen from local veteran's home

Family heirloom, Christmas gifts stolen from local veteran's home

A burglary before Christmas left an area veteran without gifts for his children and a family heirloom. Now, he wants help getting them back.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office confirmed someone broke into the home on Saturday, December 23rd and stole a computer, a cell phone, and a handgun before making their getaway.

It's just the latest in a string of bad luck for this veteran.

Sgt. Don Sanders (Ret.) grew up on a plot of land in Niceville.

After more than 20 years in law enforcement,12 years in the Army, including a deployment to Iraq, he hit a couple of bumps in the road.

"I was married for 21 years, and I got divorced due to, you know, me having problems when I came back from Iraq," Sanders said. "And my youngest son, he just had a kidney transplant back in January."

The costs associated with his son's health condition wiped out whatever he had left from the divorce, but he was able to scrimp and save enough for a laptop for his college-bound son and a phone for his youngest.

"I was just trying to give my boys a Christmas and it didn't work out too well," Sanders said.

When he went home to gather the presents on Christmas Eve, they were gone, along with his service pistol, a gift from his father almost 25 years ago.

"I had to go to both and tell them, 'look, you know, I got you something but I don't have it now because somebody came in my house and stole it,'" Sanders said.

He wrote online that it was the worst day of his life.

When fellow vet and veteran activist Frank Dailey read those words, he knew he had to act.

"When you have someone who has been in combat turn around and say, 'today is the worst day of my life' and it's Christmas Eve, you have to perk your ears up and you must say or do something," Dailey said.

Dailey rallied veterans in the area and began raising money to help replace what was stolen.

"Senior NCOs and officers that are retired don't forget how to do that, and they just came through and jumped at the chance to make a Christmas miracle happen," Dailey said.

If you want to help the family, click here.

If you have a tip which could help law enforcement, call 863-8477

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