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The contents of Casimiro Naranjo's wallet, lost on Camp Foster in 1957, includes the former Marine's ID card, rations card and a pawn ticket. The wallet was found in May during renovations to the Butler Theater.

The contents of Casimiro Naranjo's wallet, lost on Camp Foster in 1957, includes the former Marine's ID card, rations card and a pawn ticket. The wallet was found in May during renovations to the Butler Theater. (Courtesy of USMC)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Casimiro Naranjo is getting a kick out of the 15 minutes of fame brought him by a wallet he lost here 45 years ago.

“Today I was on a radio talk show live from Australia,” an excited Naranjo said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his home in Falfurrias, Texas. “And a Houston TV channel had two stories about me and there was a station in Austin and newspapers from Corpus Christi and Japan.”

Fame caught up with Naranjo, 66, a former Marine, when a Japanese workman renovating Butler Theater found an old wallet half buried in a mud-caked ventilation duct.

A 46-year-old Naha construction worker found it in late May. “It was covered in mud and hardly looked like a wallet,” he said, according to Marine Corps officials. “But when I picked it up, I saw it was pretty packed with lots of memories.”

Inside was Naranjo’s Marine ID card, a rations card, pawn-shop ticket and photos of friends and family. Marine officials tracked Naranjo through the old ID card and mailed the wallet to him in July.

“It was like revisiting the 19-year-old I was when stationed on Okinawa back in ’58,” Naranjo said. “I was surprised at how little damaged the items inside the wallet were.”

Among the photos were pictures of his sister, Mary, and a woman friend whose name he said he’d forgotten long ago.

“My wife said that was pretty convenient,” Naranjo laughed, noting he’s been married to Estrella Naranjo for 41 years.

The pawn ticket was from Naranjo’s first visit to Okinawa in 1957. “It was for my high school ring,” he said. “We stopped at Okinawa to off-load some Marines and were given a four-hour liberty. Some friends of mine wanted to go drinking.

“I didn’t have any money but this one guy had been on Okinawa before and knew where a pawn shop was.”

He pawned the ring for 1,780 yen.

“I think that was worth only about five bucks back then but it was enough to buy a couple of Nippon beers and a teriyaki steak,” he said.

Naranjo, assigned to a communications platoon of 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, was sent to Camp Fuji.

“Then in 1958, we were sent back down to Okinawa,” he said. “We were assigned to a tent city called West Camp Hague. There were 13 of us to a tent and we were glad it got knocked down in a typhoon. That’s when they took us to Camp Zukeran.”

Camp Zukeran was an Army camp, renamed Camp Foster when the Marines took it over in the 1970s.

Naranjo figures he lost the wallet one day when going to the movies. Unknown is how the wallet landed where it was found: in a ventilation duct.

“I thought I’d dropped it somewhere, or someone had taken it from my footlocker,” he said. “I really didn’t know, though I’m glad after all these years to get it back.”

Naranjo, a retired senior operator for Exxon in Eastern Texas, said he has fond memories of his time in the Marine Corps.

“I’m very proud to have served in the United States Marine Corps,” he said. “They made a man out of me.”

Among the valued items in the wallet was a ration card signed by a Capt. James L. Day.

Day was a former enlisted man who took part in the bloody battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. He eventually rose to the rank of brigadier general and received a belated Medal of Honor in January 1998 for his actions during a particularly tough fight for a small hill named Sugar Loaf, now a reservoir sitting in the middle of a new shopping district in Naha. He died nine months after receiving the medal, at the age of 73.

“I’d like to find out as much as I can about him,” Naranjo said.

Still, the most precious item returned with the wallet was a small Sacred Heart patch that his mother, Gertrudis Naranjo, gave him the day he boarded a bus for boot camp.

“That was special,” Naranjo said. “She died just before the wallet was mailed to me.”

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