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'Hurts like heck': Thief steals officer's coat, medals from 94-year-old World War II veteran

Odin Stutrud looks at an old photo in his Wahpeton, N.D. home of he and his wife, Hazel, that was taken back in 1944. In the photo he is wearing his Army uniform. Odin served in the Army during World War II. This past weekend his military jacket was taken from his car. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

By Mia Farhang

WAHPETON, N.D. Maybe the thief wanted something to wear on Memorial Day.

Maybe, as Odin Stutrud suspects, the thief stole his World War II officer’s jacket on Sunday thinking it might fetch a few dollars at a pawn shop.

Either way, the 94-year-old Wahpeton man is confident he’ll never see his jacket again.

“It’s a part of you,” he said. “It hurts like heck, I’ll tell you that.”

Stutrud left the forest green jacket in his car Sunday morning while he attended church. When he walked outside an hour later, it was gone.

Gone, too, are the medals, ribbons and stars that have decorated the jacket for more than 70 years. Stutrud rose to the rank of lieutenant in the Army Infantry during World War II.

By Kia Farhang

“No way you can replace that,” Stutrud said. “And I wouldn’t care if I did. If it isn’t mine, I don’t want it.”

Stutrud admits he didn’t lock his car that day. He didn’t think he had to, or that anyone would want a jacket like that, he said.

And it seems like Stutrud was the one unlucky victim. No one has reported any other thefts from that area on that day, said Wahpeton Police Chief Scott Thorsteinson.

Police don’t yet have any leads in the case, Thorsteinson said. They have no suspect description. They hope to get lucky calling around to local pawn shops.

“Hopefully we’ll catch some moron wearing it,” Thorsteinson said. “

But Stutrud isn’t holding out hope.

“Whoever took it, they didn’t take it to wear,” he said. “They’re going to go hawk it, pawn it off. They’ll get their 10 bucks and I’ll never see it again.”

Thorsteinson, whose father was a prisoner of war in World War II, called the theft of Stutrud’s jacket “very sad.”

The fact that it happened over the Memorial Day weekend stings Stutrud even more. He planned to wear it to a ceremony on Monday. Last year was the first time he fit into the jacket in 30 years.

“It just hurts to talk about it,” Stutrud said. “It’s a keepsake, something special.”

Anyone with information on the jacket, which should have four gold bars on the left sleeve, can call the Wahpeton Police Department at (701) 642-7722.

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