The ring, made of 10-carat gold and embedded with a garnet, his birthstone, perfectly captured the institution he loves. Adorned on one side with the Eagle, Globe and Anchor symbolic of the U.S. Marine Corps and on the other with the iconic flag-raising on Iwo Jima, the 1997 gift from his wife featured a two-line inscription.
Eduardo L. Moreno
It saluted his service and the shared military hitch that brought them together when they were stationed in San Diego. Around 2001, when he realized the ring was missing, Eddie Moreno was devastated, even though the couple had divorced years earlier.
“How do I explain this? It’s part of me,” says Moreno, 55 and now living in Brighton. “I’m a retired Marine of 22 years. Everyone leaves the service with something. For me, it was my Marine Corps ring. It’s something that, when I first got it, I knew I was going to die with it.”
But 17 years passed, and the ring never surfaced. Slowly, he came to grips with losing his cherished memento. Only recently did Moreno, who now works for the Federal Protective Service, reach the point of even toying with the idea of replacing the original.
And then he got a text message.
* * *
While stationed in Denver in 2001, working at the Marines’ regional recruiting office on Sherman Street and doing physical training in City Park, Moreno also pulled a night shift working for UPS out at the airport. He first noticed that his left ring finger was bare as he drove home from work.
In the days after his discovery, he launched a frantic search, walking airport runways and scouring small cargo planes where the ring might have come loose during loading or unloading. He came up empty. He never told Trebis, though they remained on good terms after the divorce.
“I was just broken-hearted — and then there’s the embarrassment of it all,” Moreno says.
For more than a decade, that’s where things stood. Then, in April of 2013, a man named Brian Clendenin took a break from his job in auto collision repair to indulge in his hobby. He grabbed his metal detector and visited his usual hunting ground at City Park.
He has found all sorts of trash and treasure in the park, everything from pull-tabs to keys to bullets, as well as an array of costume jewelry and more men’s wedding bands than you might think. He once unearthed a pewter cross that dated to the early 1900s, and when workers were doing a lot of digging for sprinkler repairs, he came across some old silver coins.
On this particular day, he pulled on his headphones and began sweeping the metal detector across the ground, listening for the beeping noise that would announce the presence of a metal object. He is purposely vague on the location.
“I don’t like to give up too many secrets,” he says, “but by the museum, by a pine tree, I got a signal. It sounded like a bottle cap, but you never know.”
He pulled out a screwdriver and poked the dirt, packed firm but not frozen in the spring temperatures. About 4 inches below the surface, he struck pay dirt.
“When you see gold, your heart starts to pound,” Clendenin says. “One thing cool about gold, it doesn’t tarnish. You know what it is as soon as you see it.”
At first, he thought he’d unearthed a class ring. He shared his find with a man who’d been watching from a nearby bench. The man pointed to the image of Iwo Jima and noted that this was a military ring. Further inspection revealed the inscription to Eduardo Moreno, followed by the two words that eventually would solve the mystery: Love, Trebis.
“I’ve pulled a few nice rings out of that park,” Clendenin says, “but that was by far the coolest. When I saw a name, I knew I had to find him — or if he’s not around, a descendant.”
* * *
He never suspected the mystery would prove so stubborn.
Clendenin contacted the American Legion, but learned there were hundreds of Eduardo Morenos who have served. Then he tried the Veterans Administration and narrowed the search to Marine veterans, but that, too, turned into a dead end.
Clendenin typed “Trebis Moreno” into a search engine, figuring that such an unusual given name might provide a lead. But he found little to go on, except for one hit, about four years ago, that revealed an Eduardo Moreno in Lubbock, Texas, as a possible relative. Clendenin figured he’d found his guy. But when he phoned and asked, the voice on the line said, “Wrong Eddie,” and hung up.
So the ring sat in Clendenin’s collection of treasures for nearly five years.
“Maybe once a month or so I’d kind of scroll through, type his name in Google and see what I could find,” he says.
Then, a few weeks ago, he saw a news feature on someone who had found an old ring and felt energized to try again. He typed “Trebis Moreno” into the search engine, as he had dozens of times before, but this time noticed a new entry near the top of the results, a Trebis Lepine with a possible relative named Eduardo Moreno. He found her on Facebook, noted the Marine Corps background on her home page and felt certain that this time he was on the right track.
He sent her a message. At home in Montana, Trebis Lepine, Moreno’s ex-wife, nearly deleted it.
“I saw the request and thought, ‘Who the heck is this guy?’” she says. “I figured it was probably a sales gimmick.”
But in a last-second change of heart, she opted to read the message. Of course, she knew the ring he was inquiring about. She described it in detail to Clendenin and said she would get in touch with Moreno.
And that’s when Moreno’s phone buzzed with the text message. Lepine couldn’t resist playfully needling her ex: “You wouldn’t by chance be missing your Marine Corps ring? Did you lose it on purpose?”
Moreno received the news with a sense of joy and relief — and also the sudden realization of how he’d lost the ring in the first place.
“It never crossed my mind that I’d lost it in City Park,” Moreno says. “But he sent me a map of where he found it. And that location, I remember we’d drop and do sit-ups and push-ups during (physical training). That must be how it came off.”
Clendenin, who now lives in Houston but left the ring at a property in Denver, had a local friend make the delivery. He’s not sure that he ever would have been able to return the ring but for the fact that Lepine’s given name, Trebis, was so unique. She says her mother mispronounced “Travis” when she was considering both boys’ and girls’ names and liked the sound of it.
“I’m in awe, I thought for sure it was gone,” Moreno says. “I’m happy, and blessed. As much jewelry as I’m sure he finds, the fact that he took this particular ring, and understood it would be important to a veteran, and the effort he put into finding the owner is remarkable.”
“If I can return something like that ring to somebody,” Clendenin says, “that’s priceless to me.”