By Greg Argos


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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s a keepsake that meant the world to a local Vietnam veteran, but it seemed like it may have been lost forever until social media got on the case. A post was shared by hundreds of thousands of people and Eyewitness News was there when the very special item was returned.

At the bustling Philadelphia International Airport, there is one piece of luggage that is getting special attention. An important part of a veteran’s life was accidentally left behind on a Spirit flight from Philly on Feb. 1.

Malissa Nied picked up that memento and immediately passed it along to Catharine Edwards, the gate agent in Dallas.

“It has lots of emblems on it. It was very heavy,” Nied said. “My granddad was in the Navy. My dad was in the Navy.”

“She assured me we would take it to lost and found and make sure it was logged in,” Nied said.

Social Media Reunites Pennsylvania Veteran With Special Hat Lost On Flight To Philadelphia

And with a prayer, Nied hoped whoever it belonged to would eventually get it back.

“I’m sitting at home in my living room, scrolling through Facebook and up pops this picture of the hat and I looked at it and said, ‘Oh my God, I’ve seen that,'” Nied said.

So with this special item, a team from Spirit Air, including Nied and Edwards, tracked down the owner.

“I would not let it out of my sight for the last couple of days,” Edwards said. “Still in the same bag where I logged it in with the date and the flight number on it.”

About 80 miles from Philadelphia International Airport, John Reber didn’t realize an entire crew was going to deliver his hat.

“I’m just an old guy that lost a hat,” Reber said.

For Reber, a retired police chief and Navy service member who served in Vietnam, it’s not just any ball cap.

“This hat encapsulates my career — my military career, my police career,” Reber said.

He tirelessly tried to find it, but lost hope.

“I called their lost and found three times,” Reber said, “I pretty much resigned myself that it was gone.”

In one last effort, Reber sent out a plea for help on social media, which was seen by more than 300,000 people, including two sets of eyes from two Spirit employees.

“Now, it’s back in my hands and I have all these lovely people and half of America to thank for it,” Reber said.