UPDATE: Woman reunites family with lost tribute to Fresno Navy pilot

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- UPDATE - Sandy Sandoval was able to get in contact with the family of Lieutenant Commander John Hammel and the shadow box will be returned to them.

Original story follows.

A Fresno woman is hoping to reunite a decorated Navy veteran's cherished memories and accomplishments with his family.

A shadow box containing the military achievements of Lieutenant Commander John Hammel was found behind a store in northeast Fresno.

The pilot's entire military career is neatly placed in the box.

"I'm not sure exactly what they are called, but I know those are the strips that he wears on his uniform," said Sandy Sandoval with Guardian Western Sweepers.

Sandoval said one of her coworkers found it, not hanging from a wall, but in a bush behind the Ross store on First and Shaw.

"Normally we throw anything that we find away, but this particular item we weren't going to through away," she said.

Sandoval doesn't know much about the veteran in the pictures but the items inside the shadow box tell his story.

His name, John Hammel, is written on his aviator's flight log book.

"I'm sure if that was opened up, it probably has a lot of information of when he flew and the time," she said.

The pilot was also a lieutenant commander.

An online obituary confirms Hammel passed away in 2014.

He was a Fresno High School graduate and apart from his time in the service, also served on multiple boards for various organizations.

He was also Saint Agnes Hospital's very first patient when they opened in 1929.

At the time his obituary was written, Hammel still had relatives living in Fresno and Sandoval is on a mission to return these cherished memories to them.

"We need to try to find the owner, there is no way we can get rid of it," she said.

Sandoval understands just how valuable the items are. She has many veterans in her life.

"We have three veterans who work here and my brother as well was in the military and so was the owner," she said.

But even if she can't find a loved one, Sandoval promises Hammel's legacy will be on display.

"If we don't find the owner I am definitely going to put it up in my office," she said.
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