From school to school, finger to finger, heart to heart

Faith and Values Features Air Force Lt. Kristen Setliff Monday, April 14, 2008, wears her 2004 Citadel class ring. Taurez Martin returned Setliff's 2004 Citadel class ring that she had lost. (Brad Nettles/staff) 4/14/08

Air Force Lt. Kristin Setliff, a 2004 Citadel graduate likely to deploy soon to southwest Asia, must take her truck to the shop. So she rents a car to get to her three-day outdoor combat class. And since it is an outdoor combat class, Setliff removes her Citadel class ring and tucks it in the glove compartment.

Then she returns the car.

Then she remembers the ring.

"I didn't freak out," she says. "I figured they'd find it."

They don't find it. In fact, the car is rented again right away and is on the road for five days.

Setliff lost the ring between March 25 and 27. She waits for the rental car to come back; she hopes she'll recover the ring from the glove compartment.

No such luck.

She calls the alumni office at The Citadel to report the loss.

* * *

It's spring break the week of March 24 for 12-year-old Taurez Martin, a sixth-grader at Memminger Elementary. His older God-brother Pierre gives him a gold ring, a memento of their relationship. He considers Pierre a cousin. Taurez slips the ring onto his pinky. Pretty cool, he thinks. Pretty cool.

* * *

It's Thursday morning recess, and Taurez's stomach grumbles. He goes to school nurse Cheryl Hughes to ask for a breakfast bar. Hughes notices the ring. She knows about The Citadel; her

husband is a 1983 graduate. He wears his ring. She wears a replica of his ring.

"Where did you get this ring?" she asks Taurez.

"My cousin," he replies.

"Taurez, let's look at that closely."

Hughes realizes that the ring, daintier than her husband's, must belong to a woman. Hughes explains to Taurez the significance of a Citadel ring, the huge sentimental value it has, the tradition it represents.

"We should try really hard to find the rightful owner," she tells Taurez. "Why don't you leave the ring with me?"

She calls the alumni office at The Citadel to report the discovery.

* * *

At lunchtime that day, Taurez returns to the nurse hoping he can claim the ring. Hughes breaks the news: The owner has been found, and arrangements had been made for Setliff to visit the school that afternoon, retrieve her precious ring and thank the boy who kept it safe for her. Taurez's mom is on the way. He gets to wear the ring for an hour or so.

Hughes, Taurez and his mom talk. They talk about doing the right thing. They talk about respect and accountability. They talk about trustworthiness and the value of experience and education and serving one's country.

"Doing the right thing in life often costs you something," Hughes explains.

The boy understands.

* * *

Setliff, extremely excited, extremely grateful, arrives to meet Taurez. She might deploy soon, for the third time, to brief C-17 pilots on external threats, political situations and other aspects of the theater of war.

In the classroom, Taurez gives her the ring. She, in turn, gives Taurez her Air Force coin for safe keeping.

This is not just a coin with "437th OSS" and the squadron emblem imprinted on it. This is a token awarded service members for going above and beyond the call of duty, for showing character and respect. It is a coin meant to remain on one's person at all times. It brings luck. It is a reminder of comradeship, team spirit, integrity, pride. Setliff "got coined" when she joined her squadron.

On this day, she coins Taurez.

The class cheers.

Some of the kids marvel at Taurez's generosity; they wouldn't have given up the ring so easily, they say. Others tease him gently: Maybe he'll get his own ring one day.

* * *

Taurez receives the respect and admiration of his peers and supervisors. An interview with the principal is broadcast over the school's intercom system. He receives S.T.A.R. points that can be redeemed in the school store. A student earns points when caught in the act of performing a good deed, of exhibiting good judgment. S.T.A.R. stands for Safe, Trustworthy, Accountable, Respectful.

When a student does something extraordinary, he is eligible for promotion.

Taurez got promoted.

Taurez is a Superstar.