When Karl and Marie Mulling got home from picking up their kids at school in Puyallup Monday, they discovered someone had paid them a visit while they were gone. A thief broke into their detached garage and made off with some very personal items.
"I had one type of every uniform that I had issued when I was in the Army. And it was like my last bag of stuff," Karl Mulling said.
One item in particular was very special. It was a desert camo Army Combat Uniform (ACU) issued only to Karl's unit during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was a prototype of the uniform soldiers are issued now.
"It was an interesting time in my life and it's an interesting piece of memorabilia," he said.
Karl did two tours 2nd infantry division, 5th battalion, 20th infantry regiment from 2003 to 2009. During his last tour his Stryker vehicle hit a landmine and he suffered a massive concussion and subsequent brain injury.
"His short-term memory gets worse daily," said Marie Mulling. She says Karl doesn't hold on to much personal stuff anymore and is more apathetic these days, but what he does have, he cherishes.
"Something that has affected his whole life is his service and they took the only memorabilia he had from that service," she said.
And it wasn't just his bag of mementos. The thief also took a high school painting he did of Stevie Ray Vaughan. The thief pulled it from the hand-painted frame and tossed the frame aside.
"They didn't steal anything else," he said. "They just took my gear, and my painting, and my bike."
But perhaps the most infuriating and perplexing is what the thief left behind; a note. It's not easy to decipher, but there are references to Karl's service, the Army, and OIF, which Karl thinks is Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It's just the fact that they had the audacity to sign their work," he says.
The sheriff's department told them getting their stuff back is a long shot, which means Karl Mulling's memories are gone, memories Marie says he can't afford to lose.