Missing hat returned to local veteran

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - What's lost is found. And now, back in the hands of its owner. In late February, Dr. John Higginbotham brought a hat to me at the station. Someone lost it while visiting his Christmas display on Horseshoe Trail in southeast Huntsville. “It was an unintentional gift,” he recently told me.

People drop things every year at his home while walking around the yard enjoying the lights. “An occasional mismatched glove or a hat or a scarf but this year, there was one that was a little bit different,” he said.

This was more than just a ball cap. “It's got to be meaningful to whoever owns the medals attached to this hat,” he said holding onto the cap. He turned to us saying, “I'd like to see it get back to its rightful owner.”

He was hoping the owner would return to retrieve the decorated cap. “We displayed this on the carousel right until the time that I removed it from the front yard a few weeks back,” he said. No luck.

“Because of the medals,” he said, “If the man has been wearing these medals, he's proud of them. And he's probably missing them.” Dr. Higginbotham was on a missing, “I want him to get his hat back, period.”

The day after the story aired on our newscast, I heard from retired Major Rich Hudgens. “At 5:15 in the morning, I sent you an email when I saw it on your website,” Hudgens told us. Higg was right. This Vietnam and 20-year Army veteran was missing his hat. “After it came up missing, I spent about two or three weeks going through the house and cars,” he said.

When I asked if he thought he’d ever see it again, he quickly said “No, I never did. I thought it just fell some place and somebody tossed it away.” It apparently fell out of his car at Dr. Higginbotham’s house. “My granddaughter must have scooted across the seat getting out to see his light displays for Christmas,” he said.

Higg had it in safe keeping. “I sure do appreciate the gesture on his part. It was nice,” Hudgens said. A lost item returned. “I sure do appreciate that. I wish I could have personally thanked him,” he said. Unfortunately, Dr. Higginbotham died the day after we found the owner of the missing hat. We were honored to return it for him.

Dr. Higginbotham brought it to the station in a box. That’s how I delivered it to the retired Major. “Wow,” he said, “Yeah, it looks just about as good as when I had it before. Thank you very much for working with him and getting the hat.

You’re welcome. And I know Dr. Higginbotham would want us to thank you for your service to our country. “Okay, appreciate it,” he said. And there’s no doubt, Higg is smiling right now, knowing this veteran got his hat back. Mission accomplished.

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