Christine Chambers is reunited with her son’s stolen medals after former sailor Kelly Kidd started a social media campaign to find their rightful owner.
26 September 2016
It took a conscientious former sailor only hours on social media to reunite an Afghanistan veteran with his stolen medals.
The three medals were spotted in a charity shop in Auckland this month by the wife of former Royal New Zealand Navy Able Radar Plotter Kelly Kidd.
“My wife sent me a photo and I saw they were very recent medals,” Mr Kidd said. “I thought, ‘why would they be in an op shop?’ So I said, ‘pay for them and bring them home’.”
Mr Kidd, who served in the Navy for six years in the 1980s, said he bought them to find their rightful owner. There was a name and service number engraved on the medals, so he put the details on the Ex-RNZN Facebook page, asking for help.
“It pretty much went nuts from there. Absolutely nuts.”
In a matter of hours he was on the phone to the man the medals were awarded to, former Lance-Corporal Paul Chambers, who had done two tours of Afghanistan and now lived in Blenheim. They had been stolen during a burglary of his parents’ house in Auckland on April 15.
“He could not believe they had turned up,” Mr Kidd said. “He was nearly in tears of joy.”
Mr Kidd said he did it because of the comradeship among service personnel.
“I’m proud to have served my country. It was instilled in me to do this sort of thing. Even if you have left the service, it never leaves you.”
Mr Chambers, 28, who served as a signalman, left the army in 2012 and was working in Australia when the burglary happened. Then earlier this month he got a call from a man who had done basic training with him.
“Hey bro, are these your medals?” the man asked. “The number is very close to mine.”
Mr Chambers went online and discovered messages from his army mates, who had seen the Ex-RNZN Facebook post.
“Maybe four hours, and I ended up with the name and phone number of Kelly Kidd – the legend who started it all.
“He wouldn’t know me from a bar of soap. I’m blown away, and stoked with the response from everybody. It was very cool to see everyone tagging, helping out.”
Mr Kidd has delivered the medals back to Mr Chambers’ mother in Auckland, Christine, where they will stay for the time being.
Mrs Chambers called it a remarkable effort.
“This was a part of our son’s life that we were really proud of,” she said. “He was so pleased to serve in Afghanistan – he said, this is why I joined the army, to contribute to something that had a purpose.”
She is impressed how quickly the social media networks had worked. “It just went viral. It just demonstrates that camaraderie in the Defence Force – it never goes.”
Mr Kidd has been refunded the cost of the medals by the charity shop manager, although he did not ask for one.
“The $75 I paid for them is irrelevant to what they mean to the person who risked their life for their country.”