Hecla resident replaces World War II veteran's awards after house fire

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HECLA, S.D. After a World War II veteran from Hecla lost his military awards in a house fire, a fellow service member in the small town decided to do something about it. Surprisingly, it didn't take long to restore everything.

Ninety-two-year-old Dale Shelton's home went up in flames on one of the coldest weekends of the year.

"We believe it was the furnace that started the fire, and he seen smoke coming up outta the floor. He tried getting out, but it got so smokey and he finally did make it to the door and got out with no hat, no jacket," Dale's Son Dennis Shelton said.

Dale Shelton was covered in ashes and knew he lost everything inside.

"Feels like hell. I hated it. Nothing I could do about it but," WWII Army Vet Dale Shelton said.

Once Hecla resident Alex Russo heard about the tragedy, he knew he had to help especially with his background in the Marines.

"It's a military thing I guess. The bottom line is there's a lot of respect and I mean Dale was a part of my history growing up, learning about WWII," Russo said.

Russo's effort means a lot to the Shelton family.

"it means a lot. I never seen these medals before. They were there, but I've never seen them​," Dale's Daughter Valerie Youngman said.

It took a little less than two months to receive all of the military awards with help from Senator John Thune and the South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs.

"It's pretty nice to look at again, so now we can start talking about it again," Dennis Shelton said.

"Never thought I'd see it. I had a rough time in there, lost many of our fellas," Dale Shelton said. "It didn't mean much to you, kept going whether it was night or day."

The Shelton family is incredibly thankful for all of the work Russo did.

"It's just an opportunity to give someone a little bit of hope that there are good people here," Russo said. "Bottom line - it was just a calling more or less. I had to do it, I knew I could do it, I wanted to do it."

Dale's nephew Darren also put in some work and got him a brand new honor flight jacket.