Rene Peña's search for the owner of a military service ring ended a week later in an unlikely place: a Korean restaurant in North Dallas when he returned it to an unsung American hero.
We first visited Peña at his home in Irving a week ago when he asked for our help to find the owner of the ring his nephew found on the ground at Grand Prairie Memorial Gardens.
"Whoever dropped this ring would be elated to get it back," he told us. Because the sterling silver memento is an Army service ring signifying service in the Korean War and is engraved on the inside with the years 1950 to 1953 and the initials CTK.
"He worked hard to earn it," Peña, a Vietnam Veteran said of his motivation to find the owner. He is one of five brothers who served in the military, including an older brother who also served in Korea.
"I think it's important this gentleman gets it, if we can find him."
And thanks to tips from WFAA viewers, we did. With recommendations to check with the Pennsylvania company that made the ring, we found CTK at the Korea House Restaurant on Royal Lane.
CTK is Chae Tong Kim. He was a sniper in the Korean Army. He was among a select group of Koreans recruited and trained by the U.S. Army during the Korean War and sent to California for extensive training. Afterwards, he and his fellow Korean soldiers returned to the conflict, working primarily at the north/south border on covert missions alongside U.S. forces. One of his missions even included the rescue of an American POW.
Today, he's 82 years old, an American citizen, and still working at the Korea House Restaurant that he and his wife opened nearly 40 years ago. And Friday Rene Peña visited the restaurant to return the ring to the fellow Army soldier.
"I'm glad that I was able to find the family," he told the soldier's daughter Caroline Kim who met him at the front door. I can't wait to meet him."
"Well hello there. How are you," Peña said as he and Chae Tong Kim met and shook hands for the first time. "You look strong and young and virile. It's really a pleasure meeting you!"
"He wore it every day," Chae Kim's daughter Caroline said of the ring. "Until he lost it! "
Chae Kim's English is a bit broken and his hearing is fading. But his daughter spoke for him, and spoke proudly.
"I would say his service is probably one of the proudest things that he feels he has accomplished in his life as I'm sure many veterans feel as well," Caroline Kim said.
"That's why it was important for me to find him," said Peña. "And I'm glad I did. I'm glad I met him."
"Well I just can't thank you, Mr. Peña, enough," Caroline Kim said. "You and your nephew for taking the time to seek us out, understanding your service and your brother's service and everybody in your family and how important it is that veterans look out for each other and take care of one another and make sure that we don't lose this type of history. It is so important and so we are truly grateful."
The Kim family offered Peña a traditional Korean meal as a thank you. They shared war stories and celebrated the return of a priceless memento he lost two years ago. He says he doesn't know exactly when or where or how it ended up in Grand Prairie. But today he is proudly wearing it again with no plans to ever take it off.
"It means everything to him. It does. It means a lot to us as well because they were able to give us a good life here," Caroline Kim said of her parents.
A good life, and today one very simple good deed.