Lost and found has a whole new meaning for one Stockton High Schooler. What he thought was trash turned out to be an irreplaceable memory from World War II.
"When I saw it, it was falling out of one of the garbage bags," said Duc Nguyen, who has a keen eye for valuables.
While helping clean up a polluted slough in Stockton, the Beaver Creek Sophomore found a letter written by a WW2 soldier.
"I couldn’t read it at first, but then looked closer and figured he was a soldier," Nguyen said.
The date reads "December 15, 1941" and the words "Your loving son George" were the only clues to the identity of the author of the letter. A deeper examination of the faded ink reveals "George" was preparing for deployment after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The historic letter was among hundreds of pounds of trash removed from Mosher slough. Nguyen's chemistry teacher is part of the Coastal Clean Up program, and the class assignment was to pick up pollution.
Now it's a lost-and-found mission.
"We do a cleanup like this every year,” said Beaver Creek chemistry teacher Steve Meredith. “This is pretty unique."
Next to the letter was a passport. It belonged to Rosemary Alemieda. News of the letter eventually made it to the Stockton newspaper. A reporter notified Alemieda of the found items.
"My dad’s letter and the passport were in a safe in a storage unit,” Alemieda said. “Someone broke into the unit last month."
The letter was written by Greg Alemieda's father. The passport belonged to his wife Rosemary.
"He was writing to his mom as he was shipped out,” Alemieda said.
This was after Pearl Harbor. He said in the letter he may not be coming back.
The letter was one of the only links that George had to his father's time in the military.
"To the thief, this was probably garbage,” George said. “To me, it’s irreplaceable."
Both the letter and passport were returned to the Alemiedas.
The Costal Clean Up program offers a cash award for the most unique find during a cleanup day.
Nguyen didn't pick up the letter for money, though, he said.
"When I saw it, I knew it was important," he said.
Nguyen said the letter survived a war and the filth in Mosher Slough. He just wanted the memory of Private George Alemieda to live on.