Bracelet returned to Valley veteran after nearly 70 years

FRESNO, Calif.

/*Neal Moberly*/ knew it wasn't likely, but miraculously the gold plated bracelet recently not only turned up, but was returned to him.

Moberly felt sick to his stomach when an afternoon swim on an Okinawa beach ended with the discovery that his most sentimental possession, slipped off his wrist and was lost at sea. Its journey back to him is one he never imagined he'd see. He is 87 now, and he lost it when he just 18.

Neal Moberly remembers that day very well in the summer of 1945. The United States had just dropped the atomic bomb and Ishikawa beach finally got an afternoon of good weather.

"I was just enjoying getting some sunshine," said Moberly. "Which is a rare day on Okinawa."

Moberly swam about a quarter of a mile to a buoy in the distance before he realized, the priceless bracelet his parents gave him before he left home was gone.

"I had no idea where I lost it for sure," said Moberly. "Whether I was swimming or on the beach and it had washed ashore on the beach, it was a sandy beach."

Over the years, then decades, the story of the missing bracelet was one very familiar in the family. Neal and his wife had pretty much counted it gone for good. Even if it was found, they knew it was unlikely it would ever make it back to them.

Moberly explained, "Not that I had given up hopes but I am getting pretty old so, I figured that by my age I probably wouldn't be around if they did find it."

Several months ago, a treasure hunter found the stainless steel bracelet. Ironically it was a staff sergeant who'd been scouring the sand with a metal detector.

The staff sergeant turned over the tarnished bracelet to an organization that helps reunite servicemen with treasures they lost overseas. That organization tracked Moberly to his town of Ahwahnee in the Sierra, through the local postmaster.

Ahwahnee Postmaster Patti Kascht said, "You know, you kind of hear about these things, like with the post office, old letters are found, or whatever and passed along, but I just think that it's such an incredible story."

The postmaster couldn't give out personal information about the Moberly's to the person who called, but since she knew the family, she asked them if by chance they lost a bracelet in Okinawa.

Last Friday, about 5,500 miles later, the bracelet was safely delivered back to the hands it left 69 years ago. It came with a letter from the man who found it, detailing how he came across it and his joy in giving it back.

Moberly could hardly hold back the emotion when he saw it again. "I couldn't believe it."

Moberly said he would like to put the bracelet and his dog tags in a shadow box to display at his Ahwahnee home, so they can remain safe always.

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