Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office announced Thursday it had successfully replaced several military medals for the family of a deceased Northland soldier.
The medals had been stolen from a cabin in Pengilly that belongs to the family of the late Army Col. Terry Vangen. The replacements were a relief to Vangen's family.
"When I got those in the mail I just started crying," his daughter, Sheryl Karnes, told the News Tribune on Thursday. "It was like the legacy goes on now. We are elated. It's a gift from heaven, actually."
Klobuchar's office worked with the Department of the Army and the National Personnel Records Center to secure the replacements.
"In these jobs, we can do big things that help a lot of people," Klobuchar said in a news release, "and we can also do smaller things that have a big impact on a few people. Sometimes it's those smaller things that really touch our hearts."
Vangen served for 25 years in the Army, having fought in World War II and the Korean War. In WWII, Vangen survived the Battle of the Bulge and later escaped from a German prisoner camp. Four of his medals had been framed and displayed together at the family cabin on Itasca County's Swan Lake.
Vangen died in 2013 at the age of 96.
His son Rick Vangen, of Pengilly, discovered the family cabin had been burglarized and the medals stolen shortly after returning home from the Christmas holiday. The family was devastated and shed tears over the loss of the medals, said Karnes, of Wyoming, Minn.
"My father had a special military career; he was very decorated," Karnes said. "The medals were the first thing you saw when you walked into the cabin and the last thing you saw when you left and locked it up."
Karnes had alerted Klobuchar's office to the burglary in a letter and said the family was surprised at how quickly Klobuchar's office responded to the news and delivered the replacements. Among the medals replaced were a Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and Korean Service Medal.
"I'm proud to have played a part in securing these replacement medals, which stand as a testament to his lasting legacy of service, for Colonel Vangen's family," Klobuchar said the news release. "Throughout our history veterans like Colonel Vangen have had a profound and enduring impact on our country and we owe them for the freedoms we enjoy today."
Karnes said the Itasca County Sheriff's Office continues to investigate the case and keeps the family updated on any developments.
Following his military career, Vangen spent 20 years working for the agency that would become the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He had four children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
"He was one of those men who walked into a room and his presence was felt — that commanding presence," Karnes said. "He loved his country and served his country his entire life."