During his 20-year career in the Navy, David Norton flew F-14 Tomcats and Super Hornets during combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also collected many medals and patches along the way.
Now, those medals are missing.
The Nortons took the insignia to a framing shop in Bay Ho to have them displayed. The shop arranged medals and patches in a shadow box.
According to the owner of Jag Art in Framing, someone walked into the shop Wednesday evening and stole two pieces—including the shadow box.
“I think somebody walked in off the streets. Saw nobody in the front room here,” owner Jonnie Gal said. “Instead of a smash and grab, they just saw an opportunity.”
Gal says he’s devastated by the theft. So are David Norton and his wife, Cassie.
“My husband spent 20 years serving our country, and this was kind of a keepsake for him of all those memories that he made with his comrades,” Cassie said.
David, a retired Lieutenant Commander, says 20 years of memories were inside that box.
“My rank was in there. I had a flag in there from when I was active duty,” David recalled. “I had all my medals, patches from the different commands that I was at, different insignia like that.”
Although the medals could be replaced, David says the patches cannot.
“Each patch was one of the commands that I was at, and some of those commands, after 20 years, no longer exist,” he explained. “They’re not making any more of those patches.”
The shop owner says the shadow box was bubble wrapped, so the thief likely didn’t know what he or she was taking. David says the contents are worth $300 to $400.
“I don’t see how you could really sell this for anything, other than a couple bucks here and there,” David said.
But for the Nortons, it’s not about the money.
“After 20 years, six deployments, lots of moves, we wanted this thing up on the wall to commemorate what we’ve been through together,” David said.
“I just can’t imagine that somebody would take somebody’s military medals,” Gal said. “They have absolutely no meaning to anybody else but this gentleman.”
Gal says the robbery happened at his shop in the 4300-block of Morena Blvd. between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday. In 30 years, he says this is the first time anything like this has happened.
San Diego police are investigating the theft. They are reviewing surveillance video from a business across the street.
The family hopes the medals are returned or recognized by someone at a pawn shop.
“I hope it doesn’t end up in the trash,” Cassie said.