Mike could feel his heartbeat in his throat, while adrenaline ran through his body like a cheetah hunting for its prey. He knew he had to call out for his mom and dad, and he tried, but the words wouldn’t come out.
His eyes were fixated on his recent discovery. His hands covered in brown soil started to tremble as hundreds of questions popped into his head. He picked the object up to take a closer look and a terrible feeling hit the pit of his stomach.
Mike Iacovelli had grown up in the riverside town of Worcester. He remembered his childhood fondly – it was such a different and magical time back then.
He’d hike and ride his bicycle along the River Severn with his friends throughout the long wet summers — hoping to find buried treasure. Then one day, Mike’s world turned upside down, and nothing was ever the same again.
The medieval town of Worcester, with its Cathedrals, cloisters, and ancient graveyards, was the perfect place for a boy to dream and explore. This place had a magical quality to it — even the air seemed to hang thick with mystery.
Mike knew in his heart that there just had to be secrets hidden in the soil around his home. But he never expected to find one right in his own backyard.
On Saturday, armed with a shovel and trowel, young Mike got to work searching for buried treasure. The sun even made a rare appearance on this fateful day, peeking out from behind the clouds.
Although Mike spent most of his free time digging for gold and relics, something just felt different today. There was a patch of earth that he hadn’t explored before, and his gut told him to start digging there. He had no idea what was coming.
Determined to find something – anything — Mike got to work. He slowly uncovered the moist soil with his shovel until he had made a hole about a foot wide and two feet deep.
He dug deeper than usual today, spurred on by the good weather and perhaps by boredom. While it’s rare for children to stumble upon valuable finds, Mike felt his trowel hit something hard and his heart started to race.
The object Mike had found was no rock or animal tooth, it was small and perfectly round. With shaking fingers, he lifted it out from the dirt to inspect it.
At first, he thought it might be an old coin, but when he rubbed at it with his thumb an inscription began to appear, and a terrible feeling hit the pit of his stomach.
Mike called out for help and his parents came rushing out. Mike turned the object over and noticed that there was a figure engraved on one side and a message on the other. At the top was a ring that looked like it had been attached to a chain or a clip.
When Mike’s parents ran out and read the words, it didn’t dawn on them immediately.
“The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919,″ the message read. Mike’s parents knew that they had to take their son’s find to the experts to find out exactly what he had found.
But Mike knew this was not just another old coin for his collection. Little did he know, he was about to embark on a mission that would take another three decades to complete.
Experts were astounded by young Mike’s discovery. What he’d found was a gold medal. From the wear on its surface, they knew it was old, but just how old?
With further analysis, experts all agreed that this gold medal must have been presented to one brave soldier during World War I. And it wasn’t just any medal…
The medal that Mike had found was a gold medal of honor. But it wasn’t until thirty years had passed that his guilt became too much to bear. Although he had found it in his Worcester backyard, he always felt that it didn’t really belong to him.
Now an adult living in Canada with his own family, he decided to do something about it. But Mike knew he had to be quick. He had already wasted three decades. Time was running out.
Mike knew it was time to finish what he’d started all those years ago. He carefully removed the medal from a box in his cupboard and showed it to his children.
When he saw the medal again, all his memories of growing up in Worcester came flooding back. He longed for his children to have such magical childhood memories, but they seemed to be more interested in their smartphones than playing outside. But, little did he know, his kids held the first key to the mystery.
It was a suggestion from his tech-savvy kids that changed everything for Mike. They heard his story and encouraged him to take to Facebook to return the medal to its rightful owner. But where to start?
Then, he found a group dedicated to artifacts and the history of his hometown on Facebook called Worcester Memories. And soon enough Mike would discover something that would leave him lost for words.
Mike uploaded a photo of his medal, and soon the story went viral. He asked his mom, who was still living in England, to see if she could take a trip to Worcester Museum to get more information. She agreed as any doting mother would. Unfortunately, the curator at the museum was of very little help in Mike’s special guest.
Just as he was about to give up hope of the medal’s owner ever being found, he got a private message on Facebook. Someone had recognized the name inscribed on the medal’s side. So, who had it belonged to?
The name on the medal indicated that it had belonged to A.G. George Hammond, a gunner for the 61st Division’s ammunition column. Sadly, he had fallen on June 12, 1917, when he was just 24 years old.
But Mike was still determined to return this fallen soldier’s medal. And he was closer than ever to accomplishing his dream than he’d ever been.
With his children’s help and some detective work on Facebook, he managed to track down George’s great-great-granddaughter!
Her name was Debbie Evans, and as soon as Mike knew he had the right person, he didn’t hesitate to send her a message. Debbie was overwhelmed that fate had brought the two together – it was all perfectly timed!