Mike and Gaylene Pomeroy needed every second of the head start they got.

They live in Yuba City, Calif., and on Sunday they were among the nearly 200,000 people who fled the Oroville Dam spillway emergency. Their son-in-law is a police officer in neighboring Marysville, so he called them a half-hour before officers went through neighborhoods with bullhorns.

The Pomeroys are both in their 60s. Mike has post-traumatic stress disorder. His wife uses a walker to get around on good days and a wheelchair on bad ones. They spent a half-hour rushing to gather their medicine, their clothes and their dog. Then they got into their car and drove 90 miles to a niece’s house.

The next day, a son checking on their home delivered good news and bad: Their house was still dry, but it had been hit by burglars.

The Pomeroys discovered the full extent of their loss when they got back the next day.

The burglars “just trashed our whole place — I think they were looking for anything they could get,” Gaylene Pomeroy told The Washington Post. “They did steal a couple guns. And they stole my jewelry.”

They also made their way to the back of the couple’s bedroom closet, where a suitcase contained Mike Pomeroy’s war medals, commendation papers and bittersweet memories.

“He just looked at me and said they were missing,” Gaylene Pomeroy said. “He was pretty upset about it. Very emotional. All of the commendations are still there. All of the descriptions are still there. They just stole the medals. He had not opened that briefcase in I don’t know how many years.

“When he was looking through it, he was seeing things that he had forgotten about,” she said.

Mike Pomeroy spent the late 1960s in Vietnam, his wife said. He was an Army helicopter medic, dropping into combat zones to do what he could for the wounded.

“I read some of the commendations, and it was just like what you would see in a movie today,” Gaylene Pomeroy said.

One was written by a commander, who explained how Mike Pomeroy earned his Purple Heart, according to Sacramento Fox affiliate KTXL.

Five decades ago, his air ambulance responded to a military aircraft down behind enemy lines, the news station reported. When they got there, they found the craft on fire and the pilots trapped inside. Mike Pomeroy lowered himself to the ground and saved the men.

He left the Army with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star Medal and several pieces of mortar shrapnel that doctors couldn’t remove from his arm.

Gaylene said her husband didn’t talk much about the war, but his memories didn’t stay locked away like the medals. He’d received some psychological help from the government over the years, but mostly he kept to himself.

Gaylene Pomeroy said her husband wanted to pass the medals down to their grandchildren, hoping they’d illuminate a part of their grandfather’s life that he had trouble articulating.

The suitcase “hasn’t been opened hardly in 50 years. They’ve never seen it,” Mike Pomeroy told KTXL before breaking down. “It’s not something you talk about. One day, you’d be able to tell them, but …”

“Almost everything you can replace. There’s things you can’t. And that’s what really, really gets to you,” he said.

Yuba City police have not made an arrest in the case. On its Facebook page, the Marysville Police Department urged anyone with information to contact authorities.

“Those who take advantage of others during times of emergency and unrest are some of the lowest form of criminal,” the department posted. “But to steal military medals, including a Purple Heart and Medal of Valor, from a Vietnam Veteran who dedicated and put his life on the line for our country is utterly disgusting.”

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