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Buried wallet in Suffolk uncovers 25-year-old story of U.S. Marine fighting through tough time

Bob Heffernan was just starting his military career when the wallet was lost 25 years ago.

SUFFOLK, Va. — Two and a half years ago, Greg Stoeger caught the metal-detecting bug.

He is a retired Navy reservist turned relic hunter, who spends most of his weekends looking for hidden treasures underground.

“Half the fun is finding it. The other half is trying to figure out what it is and what it was used for,” said Stoeger.

About a month ago, his favorite hobby brought him to a wooded area near Lake Kilby in Suffolk. But it wasn’t a Civil War artifact he’d find that day.

“I came across a faint signal in the ground,” said Stoeger. “It looked pretty toasted. Roots growing through it and covered in mud.”

It was an old Dockers wallet. Stoeger stashed it in his pouch and went about his day.

That night he discovered a military ID inside for a U.S. Marine named Robert Heffernan. And so began the days-long search and social media sleuthing that eventually connected him to that Heffernan.

“It brought back all kinds of memories for him,” said Stoeger.

Bob Heffernan was just starting his military career when the wallet was lost. He was in Hampton Roads receiving treatment for testicular cancer -- which he beat -- and his wife was nine months pregnant. One day he was robbed at gunpoint by three men with shotguns.

They stole his Dockers wallet, took the cash, and tossed the wallet into the woods.

Stoeger has boxes of valuable coins and Civil War relics, but they don’t compare to his latest discovery: finding closure for a family from the not-so-distant past.

“He never knew me, but we had this kindred spirit of both being in the military,” said Stoeger. “So I made a new friend down in North Carolina.”

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