HICKORY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE)- A Hickory man is helping a family hundreds of miles away learn more about their heroic father they barely knew.

Donald Helfer served in the Navy during World War II, where he flew in 28 missions in enemy territory. He received medals and accolades for his bravery.

Helfer’s family never knew these stories about their father until Hickory resident Jeff Truitt told them.

“They had no idea what their father did in the military,” said Truitt of Helfer’s grown children. “They’ve never seen pictures, never seen any of this. And they’re all in their 70s and 80s.”

Unlocking Helfer’s history started in, of all places, a dumpster.

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One of Truitt’s friends found a bag containing Helfer’s birth certificate, military records, pictures and much more thrown in a dumpster. They turned to Truitt, a Navy Veteran and commander of a local American Legion, to try to track down the family.

After searching online, Truitt found that Helfer was from the Rochester, NY area. He served as a policeman in upstate New York. After getting a divorce, he remarried and moved to Florida.

“How this got into a dumpster in the Hickory area, nobody knows,” said Truitt.

Truitt tracked down Helfer’s kids in Rochester, NY and another one in North Wilkesboro, NC.

He plans to hand-deliver their father’s important documents to their rightful place.

“This could have just been left in the trash, but maybe this family can now have some closure and learn some things about what their father did,” Truitt said. “He was a hero.”