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Veteran: Community response to theft 'humbling and overwhelming'

Police ask residents near Tanner Creek Park to look for military backpack


Looking back, Daniel Tomes blames himself.

When the West Linn resident and U.S. Army veteran returned to his home near Tanner Creek Park May 14, he locked the car doors but not the trunk. The only valuable item in the trunk was a military backpack stuffed with mementos from his service. Who, besides Tomes, would want anything with that?

The stolen military backpack looks similar to this design.

And yet, at some point during the night between May 14 and 15, car prowlers broke into Tomes’ trunk and stole that very backpack.

“It’s ultimately my fault,” Tomes said. “In all honesty, I didn’t think anyone would want to take that. There’s no monetary value.”

The pack contained a binder with photos, official documents, service awards, a letter from the president and an original Bronze Star certificate that was awarded to Tomes on his last combat tour in Afghanistan.

The pack is in Army Combat Uniform (ACU) pattern, which is the camouflage of the United States Army. It had a patch on it that read “229 Training Brigade.”

Police are asking everyone in the area of Tanner Creek park to check their yards and trash cans to see if the thieves discarded the backpack. If it is found, contact the WLPD at 503-635-0238 and an officer will pick it up.

In the days since the burglary, Tomes’ wife, Mary, said that some papers from the bag had been found by a school bus driver and West Linn public service workers.

“Nothing of importance,” she said, “but definitely a sign that someone has the bag and was discarding items along the road.”

While the ribbons and medals were important, Tomes considered the loss of official letters and documents to be the most troubling.

“There may have been a few medals or ribbons, but you can replace those,” Tomes said. “The real thing was the original certificates and all the letters and stuff I had gotten all over world. I had Brazilian jump wings, Canadian jump wings ... and I don’t think they’re going to be able to replace those.”

As a construction engineer, Tomes served tours of duty in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan before returning in January 2013. He’s now in the midst of a three-year recruiting assignment centered in the Portland area. He carries the backpack to demonstrate tangible evidence of the accomplishments recruits can strive for.

“It’s to show future soldiers what we’ve done, tell them about our career,” Tomes said. “It’s a very good thing to be able to show them that.”

Tomes never imagined anyone would want to steal the backpack, and he also left it in the car for practical reasons.

“I’ve forgotten it (in the house) before,” Tomes said, “if things are crazy getting the kids ready in the morning.”

In the days since the theft was reported, Tomes said the community’s response has been “humbling and overwhelming,” though the efforts have not yet brought the backpack into its rightful arms.

“West Linn is a great community,” Tomes said. “This was a crime of opportunity, and it in no way reflects the area.”

Police said there have been several car break-ins over the last two weeks, after which items were discarded by the suspects, and subsequently returned to the victims.

If you know anything about this or any other crime in West Linn, you can send an anonymous tip by texting “WLPD” plus your tip to 274637.


By Patrick Malee
Reporter
503-636-1281 ex
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