WWII veteran's son reunited with late father's historic memorabilia

Holding an old flotation belt with large metal hooks on the ends, Gary Northen wore a big grin on his face. Beneath the smile were years of memories washing over him.

"It's just incredible - I'm all choked up - I really am - it's just amazing - just to remember my dad," he said.

Decades now separate Northen from the various items that were laid out on the table before him. Old memorabilia from WWII that was his father's before going missing had been returned to him. He has Chris Kyle to thank for their retrieval.

They were originally the property of Philip Clifton Northen before he died in 2005 at the age of 83. What he left behind could be considered a time capsule from a bygone era. Kyle came into possession of the valuables after his sister bought Northen's home in Farmington Hills.

In the attic, they found the keepsakes. 

"When I looked at it, I was blown away - I was like, this is some history," Kyle said, describing the moment he and his sister made the find. "If I could get it back to the family, I think that would great."

On Friday, he reunited the items with their rightful owner.

For Northen, it was a side of his dad he had never seen before - making it even better. 

"Dad's medals, huh?" he said, holding some of the medallions his dad received while serving in WWII.

There was also a photo of his dad, along with certificates of service he received in the United States Merchant Marine. Digging even further, there's a book of poems from 1921 and a Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day program from 1938. Then there's munitions and even the elder Northen's flotation belt.

"Just to know it was his - one of his possessions - something he used during the war," said Northen. "It's just overwhelming."

Northen's dad was remembered as a good swimmer - something his son chops up to residing along the Detroit River. He was known to even swim over the border to Canada and back. They were skills that would even save a fellow service member's life one day.

"My dad was a hero - to me and to that gentleman for sure," he said.

Kyle, who was there for the big reveal, cherished the role he played in helping reunite the lost items.

"I truly believe that the best blessings lie in being a good person," he said. "Doing on to others as you would want them to do to you."