Seventy-seven years ago, Army Veteran Joe Esquibel was guarding a POW camp for German soldiers near Prague. One of his duffel bags was stolen, and that bag contained a very special engraved bracelet and a few other items.

Last October, Petr Švihovec found the bracelet and other items from the duffel bag around the ruins of the old camp, near Prague, with his metal detector.

Some very determined detective work followed.

Svihovec shared a photo of the bracelet on a Facebook page dedicated to treasure hunting, and the group helped decipher Esquibel as the last name. Svihovec searched the internet and found Lydia Esquibel’s obituary from 2019. He read that she had lived in Colorado and that she was survived by her husband, Joe.

Svihovec turned to Facebook to attempt to find the owner. Grand Junction, Colorado, resident Alena Busovsk saw the post and called the Esquibel family to connect them with Svihovec.

WWII Vet given medal

WWII Army Veteran Joe Esquibel

Several weeks ago, VA’s Western Colorado Health Care System was host to Švihovec returning the lost items and the bracelet to Esquibel, now 96. He also gave the surprised and grateful Veteran a medal, a letter from the Czech Republic’s President, and a certificate from Czech Republic’s Army General Ales.

A little back story

WWII Purple Heart recipient Veteran Joe Esquibel served in the 318th Infantry, Company D, Third Army. He enlisted on September 29, 1944.

During his boot camp training in Fort Bliss, Texas, he purchased a silver wrist bracelet. On one side was engraved his signature and, on the other, he used a nail to scratch the name Lydia, who later became his wife.

After his service, he married Lydia and they would have four kids.

Some of Esquibel’s family members were on hand for the ceremony, including his daughter, Jolene Esquibel-Archuleta, who called her father, “The most honorable man that there is.”

“It’s been like a dream,” she said. “My dad is deserving of this, but he’s told me that those who deserve this badge of honor are the World War II Veterans that never came back. They’re the ones that deserve it, but he was over there, too, and he’s very proud of it.”

By Stephanie McAntee is a Veterans Experience officer at VA Western Colorado

Share this story

Published on May. 28, 2022

Estimated reading time is 1.9 min.

Views to date: 1,638

One Comment

  1. Timothy A Mickey June 5, 2022 at 12:44 pm

    Great hero and Veteran, God Bless You and your family!

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • Housebound Veterans are winners when they combine virtual and in-home health care visits. Susan Gallagher receives hybrid care, both virtual and in-person.

  • In 2022, VA set a goal to house 38,000 homeless Veterans. With only a few months to go, how are we doing?

  • Under the PACT Act, Vietnam era, Gulf War era, and Post-9/11 Veterans have extended eligibility for VA health care.