Mementos of a mysterious life, found in an abandoned storage unit in Mesquite, have offered clues for a grieving Texas family. But the answers they are truly seeking remain as elusive as the big brother who disappeared from his family's life for nearly 30 years.
Bobby Gleason, 71, was among 13 veterans buried in April at Dallas Fort Worth National Cemetery without any next-of-kin found to witness the interment. Thousands of indigent veterans are laid to rest each year in the United States: veterans who are often homeless or who had purposely cut off connections with their families.
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The WFAA story reached Margie Johnson in Oakwood, Texas two hours south of Dallas. Gleason was her brother who left to join the Air Force immediately after graduating as salutatorian of his high school class in 1965. But other than a few return visits to the tiny Leon County town, he disappeared in the early 1990s and his family couldn't find him.
"It's sad for me. But it's a blessing also," Margie Johnson told us the day her brother and the other veterans were buried.
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"I still wonder because you know. I just want to know what he was going through. What made him live the way he did?"
But then last month, someone bought the contents of an abandoned storage unit in Mesquite, recognized the name from the WFAA story on Bobby Gleason, and asked to contact Margie Johnson.
"When I got the call I was just so excited," Johnson said.
The person who purchased the contents of the storage unit asked to remain anonymous. But they returned Bobby Gleason's Air Force uniform, his awards and commendations, pictures of Gleason that his little sister had never seen before, and his military dog tags that she now carries with her wherever she goes.
"It just makes me feel close to him," she said of the brother nearly 10 years her senior. "Close to the brother that I never knew a lot about."
But while she is grateful a stranger decided to return all of the mementos to her she still struggles because the items haven't helped solved the mystery that haunts her every single day.
"I had the feeling there was something in there that would give me some closure. And that's what I was hoping and praying for, but it wasn't. That's what I was searching for. I'm still searching for answers. He knew he had a little sister back here. What made him forget all about me? That's the thing I worry about the most."
Margie Johnson hopes more answers might come from the owners of the Dallas roadside hotel where her brother was staying when he died. But for now, she is grateful for the gifts offered by a stranger and grateful she knows at least where her brother is - buried where she believes he would want his story to end.
"I think he's actually with his family," she said of his burial with honors at the DFW National Cemetery. "And I think that's where he would want to be, is right there."
Meanwhile, the questions linger for the family he left behind.
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