When This Boy Went Kayaking On July 4th, He Found The Missing Piece To One Marine’s Emotional Story

When young Kolton Conrad went on an Independence Day kayaking trip with his family, he had no idea just how fateful the outing would turn out to be. That’s because during his day out the 12-year-old came across an item of incredibly sentimental value. And with the help of his family, he was able to return it to its rightful owner.

Now, Conrad lives in Stoutsville, Ohio, with his family, including his mother Ashley Scurlock-Conrad. The youngster also has a dad and a brother, and he was with them on the Hocking River in July 2020 when he made the poignant discovery.

Unsurprisingly, the trio had been to the river before for kayaking. And this time their adventure took them from Clear Creek Metro Park in Rockbridge, OH, down to the city of Logan around 10 miles away. Overall, the Hocking River is known as a scenic location, stretching 102 miles in the south east of the state.

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According to an article by Ohio-based newspaper the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, the kayak trip was supposed to be a typical “guys day out.” However, their day wasn’t all about fun. That’s because they also made time for a good deed, stopping to pick up litter on a sandbank.

For you see, prior to the kayaking trip, Conrad had become interested in the idea of treasure hunting, after watching videos of people discovering lost keepsakes online. As a result, he made sure to keep his eyes peeled for any sign of missing valuables as they cleaned up.

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And it would seem that Conrad was the right person in the right place that fateful July 4. That’s because the eager treasure hunter did indeed stumble upon something of value among the trash. Although, at first glance, all the young boy had seen was an object glimmering from beneath the water.

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Little did Conrad know that his keen eye for treasure would lead him and his family on an emotional rollercoaster. It turned out that the youngster had come upon a long lost item. And attached to the fairly humble object was a heartbreaking story of love, service and loss.

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Fairly quickly Conrad realized that the item he’d uncovered probably meant something to someone. With that in mind, he hoped that he would be able to return it to its rightful owner. But doing so wouldn’t be easy. You see, the only clue he and his family had was the last name engraved on the metal object, “Rhonemus.”

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However, it seems that mom Scurlock-Conrad figured that posting details of the item on Facebook was worth a shot. As she explained to the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, “Rhonemus doesn’t seem like a very common name. So we thought it should be pretty easy to find who it belonged to.”

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So following Conrad’s discovery, his mom took a picture of the lost treasure and shared it online. Speaking to CNN in July 2020, Scurlock-Conrad admitted, though, that she’d still been unsure if her post would come to anything. She said, “I put it out on Facebook, not knowing if we would ever find the family or we would ever know anything.”

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Alongside the image of the item, Scurlock-Conrad explained on Facebook how her son had found it “while kayaking at The Hocking River” the day before. Furthermore, she relayed the sparse details that were engraved on the object, which read, “Rhonemus, S.F, USMC, Pentacostal.” And in a plea to the social media community, she added, “Please share.”

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Soon comments began to flow in. Now, some people just got in touch just to let the mom know that they’d shared her post. Meanwhile, one suggested that she “check with a local (military) recruiter and see if they can track them down when they open back up.”

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In the end, though, Scurlock-Conrad’s Facebook post was enough to reach the right person. It was her son’s former bus driver, a woman by the name of Crystal Potts, who was able to connect the dots. You see, she recognized the Rhonemus surname. Not only that, but she was actually friends with the family.

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Overall, it hadn’t taken very long for the Conrads to find the rightful owner of the object. Scurlock-Conrad told the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, “Within about six hours someone got in touch with us. That woman put us in contact with Kimberly Greenlee.” Now you see, Greenlee was the sister of the person that the trinket had originally belonged to.

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Yes, Greenlee’s brother was Steven Rhonemus. He had been a U.S. Marine until he was discharged following an injury. Sadly, he’d died after being involved in a motorcycle accident in 1974. And Greenlee had no idea how his belongings had wound up in the river but said that Rhonemus may have lost it while enjoying the outdoors with friends.

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Speaking to the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, Greenlee explained how she’d learned that her late brother’s possession had been found. She said, “When my cousin, Wendy Pennington, called me about Ashley’s (Scurlock-Conrad) post, I could feel her excitement over the phone. She told me ‘You’re not going to believe this.’”

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Continuing to relay the heartwarming story, Greenlee said that she “could just hear the disbelief” in Pennington’s voice. She revealed how she and her cousin had shared a moment of complete astonishment. Greenlee said of Pennington, “She told me how Kolton (Conrad) found [it], and I just said ‘WHAT?’”

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So you see, by chance Conrad had found Rhonemus’ dog tag. And the discovery had extra meaning to Conrad, as he dreams of a career in the military when he grows up. In fact, his idea to join the armed forces was inspired by his aunt, who had enlisted when Conrad was still just a toddler. However, it had set him on the path to signing up as soon as he’s old enough.

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At first, Conrad’s dad wasn’t sure if the dog tag was authentic, but with his passion for military history, the youngster was convinced it was the real deal. Nevertheless, the family did get the item verified to ensure it was genuine. Only after they had determined this did they post about the item on Facebook.

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The discovery of Rhonemus’ dog tag was made even more poignant by the timing of it. Greenlee explained to the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, “It’s just amazing to think about, this tag was lost for 46 years, and for this little boy to find it on Independence Day, of all days.”

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What’s more, Greenlee was particularly impressed with young Conrad for having the awareness of the item he’d found. She said, “For him to realize the meaning behind the tag, and to hold onto it, to help a stranger’s family, it’s amazing.” However, the incredible story didn’t end there.

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For you see, thanks to the Facebook appeal, Greenlee and the Conrads connected. And soon they arranged to get together so that they could exchange the tag in person. As Scurlock-Conrad explained to the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, “We knew we had to get the tag back to her, so we arranged to meet.”

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Once again, a nice coincidence emerged when Greenlee and the Conrads came to deciding on a meeting place. You see, Scurlock-Conrad suggested they meet at Rising Park in Lancaster, OH, as that was where Conrad liked to fish. And the location happened to be important to Greenlee too – because it had also been a special spot for Rhonemus.

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Yes, Greenlee explained how Rhonemus had loved riding his motorcycles around Rising Park. She revealed to CNN that her late brother “had a chopper he built himself, and he would take everybody on rides in that park all the time.” Consequently, it felt like the perfect place to swap his old dog tag.

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So the meeting between the Conrads and Greenlee proved to be an emotional one. Conrad was especially nervous. However, his mom tried to ease his worries by reminding him of the good deed he was doing. According to CNN, Scurlock-Conrad told her son, “you did a wonderful thing.”

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And Greenlee herself had nothing but good words to say to Conrad. She called him “super special” and said that it was fate that led him to discover the tag. In the end, Conrad was happy for the meeting, revealing that it had felt good to return Rhonemus’ possession to his family.

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Greenlee later relayed the details of the emotional meeting with Conrad and his family while speaking to CNN. She revealed, “I just threw my arms around him and wanted to cry. I was just amazed that little boy knew the deep meaning of those tags and knew what it would mean to our family. I just hugged and hugged him.”

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However, it would seem that the true significance of getting Rhonemus’ dog tag back didn’t really hit Greenlee until she got home. For it was then that she sat with her late brother’s military identification in her hands and cried. All she could think about was her niece – Danielle Jewell.

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You see, Jewell was Rhonemus’ daughter. However, she never got to meet her father as she was born after his death. To add to that, a house fire had destroyed all of Rhonemus’ possessions and most of his photographs. As a result, Jewell only had five precious pictures of her late dad.

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Given that there was so little left of Rhonemus in the world, Greenlee hoped that the dog tag would become a worthy keepsake for her niece. In her interview with the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, she said of Jewell, “I reached out to Danielle, and I told her the story.”

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Greenlee continued, “We haven’t been in touch for a while, but I wanted to offer her the dog tag, so she could have that to remember her father.” She added, “It was emotional when she got it. She said it felt like God was letting her know her dad was with her and watching over her.”

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Speaking to CNN, Jewell explained how receiving her late father’s dog tag after such a long time had helped her to feel close to him. She said, “I’m not sure why now, 46 years later this came about, I’ve always felt like maybe he was watching over me and I felt like maybe this is a sign that he is with me still.”

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Touchingly, Jewell took the time to thank the Conrads for searching for the tag’s rightful owner. She said, “I really do appreciate them returning it to us. They didn’t have to do that. They could have kept it, especially a young boy who’s into the military finding a dog tag. It’s surprising they would go out of their way to make sure it got back to the family.”

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What’s more, Greenlee was grateful to those who’d played a part in the return of the tag. Yes, she paid tribute to Potts who had reached out to her cousin, Pennington. To Greenlee, it was only because of this chain of kindness that the tag was returned.

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So for Greenlee the dog tag episode was extremely heartwarming. She later told the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette “It’s just amazing for me how much of a ripple effect there has been since Kolton (Conrad) found the tag and all the good we’ve heard about because of it.”

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Through the discovery of Rhonemus’ tag, Greenlee was also given the chance to swap memories of her late brother. Yes, after Scurlock-Conrad shared the story behind their interaction online, people started reaching out with their own messages about Rhonemus. And it was a joy for Greenlee to learn just how valued he’d been.

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Remembering Rhonemus, Greenlee told the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, “He was a brother, a protector. Everybody loved him. The first thing you’d hear about him if you said his name is ‘he was my brother.’ He was a good man. I loved him, and I can only imagine how my life would have been different if he had lived.”

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Therefore, the discovery of Rhonemus’ tag had shown Greenlee that her brother’s memory lives on. And it did so – not only through the ID – but in the hearts of others. For that, she had the thoughtfulness of a 12-year-old boy and his family to thank.

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Once again paying tribute to the Conrads, Greenlee told the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, “I just want to acknowledge Kolton and his family. We have so much gratefulness for them, from the bottom of our hearts. They were able to give us back a piece of my brother, and helped show respect to the military, the respect it deserves.”

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As for proud mom Scurlock-Conrad, in July 2020 she wrote on Facebook, “I truly know Kolton was meant to find this! Blessing Steve’s family all these 46 years later was just so heartwarming! We loved hearing about Steve! We can’t thank everyone enough who shared to find his family! We’re so happy to give them a piece of him back.”

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