PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz.—It was just an old briefcase, set aside with other unwanted items. General Manager Tyler Perkinson and his team found it left behind after U-Haul acquired the facility now known as U-Haul Moving and Storage of Paradise Valley. But inside the briefcase certainly wasn’t just someone’s junk. It contained a family’s priceless treasures, detailing the military career of a World War II hero.
“While we were going through one of the vacated rooms the previous owners used for their own storage, I stumbled across the briefcase,” Perkinson explained. “I set it aside and kind of forgot about it for a day or two. Then, one night I remembered the briefcase and opened it up; what I found inside was awe inspiring! There were so many pieces of history relevant to World War II, along with info about mission plans, maps, documents, photos, etc. from 1942 through the early 1970s.”
The name on the military documents was Lieutenant Colonel Thomas J. Moore Jr. He was a glider pilot who served more than 33 years, including stints in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The briefcase included his pilot log, which detailed his training flights and combat missions over the years.
One such mission was on June 6, 1944: D-Day, when U.S. and Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy. Lt. Col. Moore’s pilot log shows he took off that day from Membury Field in England, and in the remarks section of the log, it says, “St. Mère-Église, France,” where many paratroopers landed on D-Day.
Also in the briefcase was a small American flag that had “France June 6, 1944” written on the back. It turns out this was a patch Lt. Col. Moore wore on his flight jacket during World War II.
“To have the pleasure of holding such a piece of history gave me chills,” Perkinson expressed. “All I wanted to do was find out if the owner of the briefcase was still alive so maybe I could give it back to him.”
“A Very Pleasant Surprise”
After doing some digging, Perkinson learned that Lt. Col. Moore died in 2006. But he was determined to track down Moore’s family members. He found the name of one of Moore’s daughters, Sharon Pickrel, and learned that she lived in the Phoenix area.
“This family had been without their father’s history for decades and were absolutely stunned to receive my phone call,” Perkinson emphasized.
“It was a very pleasant surprise to hear that he had found some extremely important things from my dad’s military service and my childhood,” Pickrel declared. “My first thought was, ‘How did it get there?’ I thought my sister had it in a trunk the military had given my dad, and she thought our brother had it.”
As you can imagine, Sharon and her husband Russ, along with the rest of their family, are ecstatic that these items, which represent an important part of their family’s history, are back in their hands.
“I thought, ‘Wow, how did that get lost?’” Russ Pickrel stressed. “Not everyone would go to the extent Tyler did to be sure we got this briefcase back.”
“It’s nice to know there are still people out there who will go the extra mile like Tyler did,” Sharon Pickrel proclaimed.