Veteran helps catch crooks who stole military memorial donations

On any given day you'll find Brandon Vickery in Tom's Coney Island in Waterford. 

"My dad and I come here," Vickery said. "It's our place to get coffee."

On Jan. 2 he proved his loyalty as a customer and that it pays to be aware.

Waitress Maria Mason helped the three suspects who came into the restaurant at various times. 

They ordered up food and ordered her around, including to replace things like the paper towel in the bathroom.

"Their actions just didn't feel right," said Maria Mason. "I had an uncomfortable feeling about it."

"I was doing the best I could to be in all places at all times. I'm really thankful Brandon was here."

That's because the suspects happen to linger around an envelope filled with donations to build a veterans memorial in nearby Pontiac. 

Skip Bushart lost his son in Iraq in 2003, and is in charge of the effort for the Fallen Heroes Memorial. He's so far raised $25,000.

"We do everything from 5k races, bowling tournaments, car washes and selling candy bars like in here," Bushart said.

Money that disappeared after the three suspects walked out of the restaurant. 

"They sacrifice their lives everyday for us and for them to come in here and steal from the people  who work so hard to protect us," Mason said. "It really breaks my heart."

The envelope, which had $7 inside, has since been returned to Tom's Coney Island. 

But before they could drive away, Vickery wrote down their license plate number. It didn't take police long to catch them and end the caper.

"The amount of money doesn't really matter," Vickery said. "It is the action. It is bittersweet to be a veteran and catch them stealing from the veterans' fund."

Since word got out about the senseless crime, donations to the Fallen Heroes Memorial have doubled. 

If you'd like to give online, go to www.fhmf.org

Donations can also be mailed to: 711 Reynolds Drive, Waterford, MI 48328

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