Barber searches for veteran to return hat


GEORGETOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Kaylie VanNetten sees the ball cap left behind at the barber shop where she works as more than just something to keep a head warm.

“There’s all these medals and accolades on it. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy needs his hat back,'” VanNetten said.

While Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember the fallen, many also take the opportunity to thank veterans. With that in mind, VaNetten, a stylist at Gentlemens’ Quarters barber shop on Port Sheldon Street near Jenison, decided to try to find the hat’s owner.

She remembers the customer as an older gentleman, about the age of a Korean War vet, and about 6 feet tall. She gave him a buzz cut. They made small talk. She remembers him boasting about an electric shaver his children bought him for Christmas. The customer didn’t mention his war service.

But the hat he left behind tells a story. The blue combat infantryman ball cap has a U.S. Army veteran pin on one side and a Korean War Veterans Association pin on the other. In the middle is a Combat Infantryman Badge with a star, indicating a second award. According to the Army, the badge is awarded to infantry or special forces soldiers who served in combat.

For two months, the hat sat under a counter at the barber shop, waiting for its owner to claim it. When he didn’t return, VanNetten took it upon herself to find him.

“It’s Memorial Day,” she said, “so I was like, ‘This guy definitely wants this hat back.'”

First, she used Facebook as a way to get the word out.

“Everybody shares it, and it’s like 300 of their friends see it and then 300, then 600 of their friends and 1,000. It’s just a really great way to get it spread out,” VanNetten said.

She also put up posters with a picture of the hat at businesses in and around Jenison.

VanNetten said the customer is a bit of a regular at the shop, but that has not helped identify him.

“He’s come in a couple of times. I think he probably moseys in every couple months or so,” VanNetten said.

But the customer is always a walk-in. No appointments, so no name in the appointment book.

“And he didn’t pay with a credit card and he didn’t pay with a check. He paid with cash,” VanNetten said.

She was hoping he was due for another haircut. But as Memorial Day approached, she decided to reach out.

“Kind of bummed that we couldn’t get it back to him sooner,” she said.