Baraboo, Wisconsin, USA (August 6, 2019) — A collection of military medals lost over time is now back where it belongs. The “shadow box” was found for sale for $99 in a thrift shop in Florida. John Hilfirty, an Air Force veteran from North Carolina, embarked on a personal mission to get the box back home to Wisconsin.
Hilfirty says his friend in Pensacola, Florida came across the shadow box and posted a picture of it on Facebook. The box contained number medals and honors as well as a name plate.
“It immediately touched me, so I told him to go back and buy it,” said Hilfirty.
The box belongs to United States Air Force Senior Staff Sergeant Edward Holloway. Holloway served for more than 20 years in the Air Force from 1970-1991. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2005 due to cancer. His shadow box got lost after his death.
“He loved being in the service, it was really who he was,” said Heather Breunig, Holloway’s niece.
When Hilfirty came across the box, he decided to track down Holloway’s family.
“So we went to work using Google and Facebook,” he said. “We were able to track down his father’s obituary and we started pulling names out of that,”
His research led him to Breunig who lives in Baraboo.
“He didn’t have children. I am his niece but he treated me like a daughter,” she said.
Breunig received a Facebook message from Hilfirty, but Breunig was skeptical and ignored his message. But Hilfirty wouldn’t give up. He reached out to her adult children which caught her attention. Breunig finally decided to trust her instincts.
“I have a really big heart and I like to think there is good people in the world and I believe this is the real deal,” she said.
After about a month of messaging online, Hilfirty decided to make the trip to Wisconsin to drop off the shadow box in person. That meeting took place at the Municipal building in Baraboo on Monday.
“I have (my own) shadow box, it’s very similar so I would expect…I would hope that my family would want to keep that as a memento,” said Hilfirty.
Hilfirty and several of his friends from the “Fire and Iron Motorcycle Club” went on a cross-country trip and made a special stop in Baraboo to drop off the shadow box.
“You’re an angel, my friend,” Breunig said during an emotional hug.
“I got a surprise for you,” said Hilfirty. “You got a surprise?” responded Breunig. “I bet I know what it is!”
“I don’t know the guy but I can tell his service was exemplary,” said Hilfirty. “He was willing to write a blank check and cover that check with his life to give us the freedoms to do the things that we do,”
“It kind of feels like I’m hugging him, even though he’s been gone since 2005,” Breunig said holding the shadow box. “Thank you. All of you, thank you so much. That’s not even the right words. Like how do you say thank you? I know. You are all my family now, how about that?”
“It’s a warm and fuzzy feel-good moment that I am going to remember for the rest of my life,” added Hilfirty. “I couldn’t ask for a better ending,”