Lost ring travels from Marine Corps League to Kuwait and back
By MICHAEL HOLTZMAN | The Herald News, Fall River, Mass. | Published: January 11, 2017
SOMERSET, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — An engraved gold ring with a blue gem, small enough to fit in a baby's hand, traveled the equivalent of four trips to California and is back on the hand it belongs.
On the last day of November, amid heaping boxes of razors and shampoo, Slim Jims and trail mix and AA batteries, it was hoped the precious ring was inside one of those boxes at Somerset's Marine Corps League quarters.
"Eight years ago we started sending packages to the troops," Bruce Aldrich, commandant of the LCpl. John J. Van Gyzen IV Marine Corps League Detachment 1285, said.
While members like Chaplain Roger Ouellette volunteer to send hearty non-perishable packages year-round to all service branches to cheer American troops, some 64 packages, four to each name, left the Somerset post office for the past holiday season.
"We try to make sure everyone gets four packages so they can share them," Aldrich said.
They try to target troops from the local area stationed in harm's way, particularly during the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The next day after shipping them overseas, Aldrich recalled the phone call he received from Ouellette.
It was about his police ring, the one he's worn for 40 years, since he graduated from the police academy to become a New Bedford officer and juvenile detective, from 1973 to 1993, and during the decades afterwards.
The search began, Ouellette went through the dozens of boxes rimming the room of packages where red and white Marine Corps League T-shirts hang proudly, including one touting various league sponsorships and another with the image of the late Marine LCpl. John J. Van Gyzen. The detachment, chartered in 2007, is named for this local serviceman killed in Iraq on July 5, 2004, at age 21.
Ouellette, a Vietnam Marine veteran of two tours in the 1960s, wearing a navy USMC sweatshirt with gold-trimmed red lettering, said when their search for the ring came up empty "I just figured it was in one of those boxes that shipped out."
Then came the email Aldrich received from Kuwait.
It was from an Air Force master sergeant who grew up in Fall River and along with his family continues to live in Greater Fall River.
His Dec. 12 email reads:
"Hi Mr. Aldrich. I just want to thank you for the care packages that I received today. The troops are very thankful for all the goodies that your members have packed. It really means a lot receiving packages from back home knowing that people support our troops here.
"I also found a ring in one of the boxes. It is a gold class ring that says New Bedford Police Department. The name inscribed in it says Roger E," the alert serviceman wrote, giving the first few initials of the last name. He said the rest was kind of worn out.
Ouellette took off his ring and turned it at a certain angle so one could mostly make out his name engraved inside on the back of the gold ring.
Then he put it back on his right ring finger. The blue gem with overlapping scales of justice in gold still shines.
Ouellette said he moved to an independent living apartment with his wife, Michelle, in the past two years "to be closer to our son."
He became chaplain of the Van Gyzen detachment about four years ago. He works with Aldrich on prayers to deliver mostly for funerals, he said.
As the two men talked about the joy of receiving the ring in a package last week from the serviceman, who didn't want his name publicized, Aldrich — who once lost a ring in similar fashion — exclaimed, "It was his ring that got lost and his ring that was returned, which is unbelievable. It went from Somerset to Kuwait and back to Somerset!"
That's approximately 12,000 miles round trip.
"I was very surprised ... I gave that ring up for lost," a smiling Ouellette said. "It was really nice of him. It was a good Christmas gift."
©2017 The Herald News, Fall River, Mass.
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