Reporter: Mark Kelly l Videographer: Parker Slaybaugh
Concord, VA - A local veteran is devastated after someone stole important military documents right from his car. Navy Veteran R.J. Petroff of Concord was shopping on Wards Road in Lynchburg Tuesday when someone stole the paperwork in the middle of the day. The paperwork includes Petroff's discharge papers, awards, letters of recommendation and most serious - documentation that he needs two more surgeries.
Petroff was injured during his service. He's undergone various surgeries since. Now, Mom Debbie Banton worries that, without the paperwork, he won't get the final surgeries he needs.
"It breaks my heart. It really does. And, it hurts, it hurts," said Banton.
With his new puppy, Petroff went to the Lynchburg PetSmart, leaving a backpack in his car. Inside was a laptop computer and military paperwork needed for his medical care. Later that night, Petroff realized the backpack was gone.
"O geez. Five years, five years of his life is in that book bag," said Banton.
Banton says they searched the house high and low before realizing what had probably happened: Distracted by his new puppy, Petroff forgot to lock the car doors at PetSmart, letting a thief get inside.
"His awards, his coins - they're of no value to anybody, but they're invaluable to me," said Banton.
And the papers for his final surgeries. He was injured while transporting prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. If the paperwork truly was stolen and never gets returned, Banton worries it could be more than a year before her son can get his surgeries.
"It hurts that somebody would be just so callous," said Banton.
Mom and son hope that if someone stole the back pack, they would just return it to authorities. Banton does not want to press charges.
As for police, LPD admits these sort of crimes often go unsolved. Still, police will make an attempt to find the back pack and the military paperwork inside.