Suffield family furious after military medals stolen before Remembrance Day

By Scott Roblin
November 12, 2018 - 11:22am Updated: November 12, 2018 - 7:15pm


SUFFIELD, AB – It was a different feeling to Remembrance Day this year for retired MCpl. James Bolger and his family.

On Friday night, thieves hit a number of homes and vehicles in the Suffield area, stealing various items including wallets and cash.

After hearing a tip from a neighbour, Bolger went out to inspect his truck only to find that his military medals were missing.

“They wouldn't mean a single thing to anyone else, they're just a set of medals you know what I mean?” said Bolger. “So, I have no idea what would possess someone to take a set of medals, it's unbelievable.”

Janet Harpell initially didn’t believe her fiancee when she learned the medals were taken, and added it’s shocking that was the item the thieves took.

“Why would they even take them?” said Harpell. “Out of everything else that Jimmy had in his truck, tools, jackets and everything, and that was the one thing that they took. So, it's heartbreaking.”

Spending two decades serving with the Canadian military, Bolger earned his four medals over three tours of duty in Bosnia between 1994 and 2000.

Wearing just his service ribbons on his jacket on Sunday, this year marked the first that Bolger attended a Remembrance Day ceremony without them.

“I wear them once a year, it's not something I parade around in,” he said. “And, it's the only day that I actually show them off, is Remembrance Day.”

It’s a crime that the family is still struggling to wrap their head around, including James’ daughter Jenna Doyle who said the medals have no meaning for those who stole them.

“They don't know what they mean, they don't know what value it holds or anything,” said Doyle. “Only the person who earned them knows how important they are.”

Wanting to help, Jenna decided to take to Facebook on Saturday night to voice her frustration in a lengthy rant detailing the theft.

As of Monday morning, the Facebook post has been commented on by 50 people and shared over 350 times.

Jenna said a lot of the feedback was from those in the military community, but added lots came from civilians wanting to help her family find the medals.

“They aren't military, but they still know that a veteran's medals are really important to them,” she said. “So, they just shared and it's unbelievable how many shares and stuff it got, I wasn't expecting that.

The response to the post has overwhelmed the Suffield-based family, with Bolger saying he’s thankful to Jenna for getting their story out even more.

“Really heart wrenching you know what I mean?” he said. “It was unbelievable, words can't describe it. It was emotional for both me and Janet just to read it.”

Redcliff RCMP have met with Bolger and his family and are investigating the break ins and thefts.

Harpell said she’s still shocked that her community of around 250 people was targeted by criminals.

“It's trusting, everybody knows one another, we all look out for one another and the kids, everything like that,” she said. “So, it was really shocking to know on Friday night there was culprits literally going up and down the streets of Suffield.”

In the meantime, Bolger is just hoping whoever has his medals will step up and return his priceless symbols of service.

“These medals mean absolutely nothing to you, for me they mean a hell of a lot,” he said. “I would just like to have them back.”

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