SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. -- The Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office surprised a Marine Corps veteran on Friday by replacing his service medals that were stolen from him.
“I’m absolutely floored. I am still in a state of shock,” said retired Lt. Col. Thomas Faleskie after the ceremony. “I never expected this. I still can’t believe it’s happened.“
Faleskie’s home was burglarized in January 2019 and tens of thousands of dollars worth of items were stolen, including his medals, pilot wings, and ribbons. Faleskie served in the United States Marine Corps from 1958 to 1982, including almost two years in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot flying the UH-34B.
Faleskie’s case was assigned to Det. Frank Corona, who is also a retire Marine, who was able to recover much of the stolen property, but not the medals.
“If there was one thing that I wish I could have gotten back that would have been it,” said Corona at the ceremony.
So, Corona, and his superior, First Sergeant Greg Hamilton, also a retired Marine, went about getting replacement medals for Faleskie.
Hamilton said the U.S. government does replace lost or stolen medals but they were worried the process could take too long and wanted to get them quickly because of Faleskie’s age, just a few days shy of his 84th birthday, and health. He said they were able to get the medals in a few weeks from a company in South Carolina.
“I just wanted to give him his medals back and say thank you. Just to appreciate his dedication to our country,” said Hamilton. “Just made me feel good that we could at least turn a bad situation a little bit better.“
Among the medals and ribbons that were replaced and put inside a shadow box were a Distinguished Flying Cross w/1 Air Medal w/Numeral 37 and 2 awards for Strike Mission Combat action Ribbon; Navy Unit Commendation; National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal w/1 Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation Gallantry Cross Color w/Palm and Frame; Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation.
Several of the medals Faleskie received were from service in Vietnam including one mission, for which he received a Gold Star, where he flew a battalion of troops in under enemy fire and he kept his helicopter on the ground until the other aircraft in his squadron had taken off.
“It was a rough morning,” said Faleskie of that mission. “But, we got it done.”
“Tom is a great Marine, a phenomenal Marine. A great American,” said Corona after reading the citation associated with that medal.
The department also presented a bouquet of flowers to Faleskie’s wife, Lisa.
Faleskie said he was “absolutely surprised” by the day.
”But, I’m not surprised that it was a fellow,” said Faleskie. “Usually, that’s what you would expect from a fellow Marine, is total support and a bond of friendship.”
Since Faleskie's home was burglarize in January 2019, many of the items taken have been recovered. But it was some precious items that remained missing that bothered the man in charge of the case.