Army Special Forces veteran, Lieutenant Colonel David Keith, had a ring made in Thailand in 1971. From a solid block of 18 karat gold, the ring originally had a black star sapphire stone set in the center. "(The sapphire) proved to be soft, split, and fell out," Keith recalled as he told the story of the ring and how he lost it at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on September 25, 2018.
The new stone is jade, that he had carved in Mexico.
Keith described the day nearly two years ago when he lost his ring, describing it as a "close encounter with a commode," and that his hand automatically pressed the flush handle, as he watched the ring disappear. "It was a dark date in history as far as I’m concerned."
"When I got called about my ring, I was dumbfounded and flabbergasted."
Hernando County Utilities Director Gordon Onderdonk described finding the ring as "nothing short of a miracle," before introducing HCUD staff members Adam Seeman and Josh Walker who found the ring during rehab maintenance at the Seven Hills lift station.
Onderdonk described the lift station as large, servicing about 1,700 homes. All the water leaving those homes wind up in the lift station, where it is later pumped to the water treatment facility. Seeman and Walker were vacuuming out an area of the lift station when they saw a shiny object on a pump, which turned out to be a ring bearing the inscription, "Army Special Forces."
Public Information Manager Virginia Singer followed up by taking the ring to be thoroughly cleaned, then to a jeweler to find any markings that could possibly point to the owner. HCUD Foreman Darrell Rose noticed a vehicle bearing a Purple Heart license plate in a driveway right next to the lift station, and spoke with Keith and his wife in person, who confirmed the loss of the ring.
"On behalf of the actions of these outstanding employees, Hernando County Utilities, Hernando County Government, with sincere appreciation for your service, Mr. Keith, we’re honored to return this ring back to you," Gordon Onderdonk said as he presented the ring to Keith.
"There are no words to describe how I’m feeling right now... Hernando is a good county for Vets."
Mr. Keith served in the U.S. Army from 1965-1980. He was awarded the Purple Heart on March 9,1969.