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VILLA RICA | Thieves steal memories of 21-year-old killed in Iraq | News

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VILLA RICA | Thieves steal memories of 21-year-old killed in Iraq
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VILLA RICA, Ga. - A Villa Rica mom says it was like losing her son all over again when thieves stole items belonging to the 21-year-old soldier who was killed in Iraq.

11Alive's Help Desk is making sure Cindy Hardegree gets something to replace those memories.

"They were very personal items," said Hardegree. "That's what hurts so much. These are items he touched."

Twenty-one-year-old Mike Hardegree lost his life in September of 2007 while serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. After his death, the military presented his mother with a Gold Star pin.

That was just one of the items stolen last week when thieves broke into her home while she was teaching social studies at Villa Rica High School. Also taken were the Airborne Wings she'd pinned to her son's chest after he graduated from Army Airborne School in 2004, and two miniature replicas of medals Mike Hardegree won during his military service.

"I was transported immediately back to September, 2007," said Cindy Hardegree said of the theft.

Also taken was the iPod Nano Mike Hardegree carried into battle while in Iraq, and his high school class ring.

After hearing of her loss, 11Alive's Help Desk contacted the office of U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey. Representatives of the Congressman responded immediately and started the process of obtaining replacements for the military items that were stolen.

"It does help," said Cindy Hardegree. "The support and love and kindness from the community, friends, and family have been overwhelming. It makes all the difference."

As for the iPod and her son's class ring, Hardegree would like the thieves to return them along with the other memories of her son.

"Mail them to me," she pleaded. "Put them on my porch. Put them in my mailbox. I just want them back."

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