KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Montgomery, Ala., man's hobby of buying the contents inside abandoned storage sheds has linked him to a piece of history and a family in Missouri.
Terrel Wheels discovered a "priceless" find inside a storage shed at an auction -- nearly a dozen war medals that belonged to Sgt. Steven Cummins who was killed in the Vietnam war in 1969. The contents contained two purple hearts and a silver star. Military records show Sgt. Cummins received the silver star because he exposed himself to enemy fire as he retrieved several seriously wounded comrades.
Wheeles made it his mission to return the medals to the Cummins family and after a year of trying, he had to get help and turned to WSFA 12 News in Montgomery, Al. After another year, two family connections were found in Kansas City, Cummins' mother Betty and sister Georgann Troglin.
"I wondered what ever became of them," said Betty Cummins. "So this was really a surprise when they called and told us about it."
This Independence Day, Sgt. Cummins medals are where they belong, with family.
"It means the world to us, we were so excited about it. We didn't know all of this exsisted, now it's complete, it's just complete," said Cummins.
Remembering her brother, the hero, Troglin and her mother talk about the last time they saw Steven.
"I knew when he left that I'd not see him again, he knew it too. he did," said Cummins. "He told my cousin that he knew he wouldn't be back," added Troglin.
Troglin says she still can't believe the medals are in her posession.
"It's so surreal, you know, it's been over 40 years and we never gave it a thought that they were missing or in a storage unit or anything," said Troglin.
Not only were the medals returned but also military paperwork and letters from the war. Sgt. Cummins was 21 years-old when he was killed in action.