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BY ANNIE McCALLUM
The Roanoke Times
ROANOKE--Marine Thomas Keltz remembers his hand sinking into the mud during the annual Marine 5K Mud Run and bringing it back up to find his wedding band was gone.
"I knew exactly when it happened," he said. "I searched for maybe a minute and half."
But it was useless. The mud was too thick. Weeks later he decided to come back to the spot in Roanoke County's Green Hill Park. He even brought a metal detector, but turned up nothing.
"I gave up on it," he said.
But earlier this month the 26-year-old, who has been married to wife Kristie for almost five years, slipped the band back on his finger. Good Samaritan and metal detector enthusiast Mel Scruggs found it Oct. 16 and met up with Keltz outside the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Center to give it to him.
But not without a bit of jest first. Scruggs first presented Keltz with another ring as a joke. A perplexed Keltz remarked that it wasn't his ring. After a laugh, Scruggs pulled out the real thing.
"That's it," Keltz said as Scruggs presented him with the two-toned ring with a small stone set in the band. "Thank you."
"Glad to do it," Scruggs replied.
Keltz said this isn't the first wedding band he's lost. He explained he lost two bands while deployed overseas, though they weren't as nice as his current ring, which he estimates cost about $600.
"I was more upset this time than last time."
Scruggs, who has been a metal detector enthusiast for about 30 years, said he's recovered jewelry before, including a woman's engagement ring from the Rappahannock River. He said he occasionally goes to metal detector competitions and is a member of the Roanoke Valley Coin and Relic Club, which is how he found out about Keltz's missing ring.
Someone from the club noticed Keltz searching for the ring and gave his name and contact information to Scruggs.
"I called him," Scruggs said, adding he recalled telling Keltz, "We'll try to find it for you."
An initial search for the ring, Scruggs said, didn't turn up anything and was difficult because of the thickness of the mud. Scruggs later fashioned plywood boards across the area to avoid sinking into the mud and potentially pushing the ring farther down.
"I got stuck in this mud," he said. "I really wasn't sure I was going to go back."
But he did, and found the ring a month and a day after it was lost.