DLI students, Capt. Camilo A. Bonilla Bernal, Colombian Army and Senior Chief Petty Officer Kwi Seong Lee, South Korean Navy.
From DLIELC |
by Harlan Bender |
23 May 2019
Photo and Story By Spencer Berry
DLI Public Affairs
“All I could think about was the person who lost it.” Capt. Camilo A. Bonilla Bernal, Colombian Army
DLI student, Capt. Camilo A. Bonilla Bernal, Colombian Army, had finished a late lunch off base and was driving back to the school’s campus at approximately 1220. After parking his car in the gravel parking lot next to the DLI track and soccer field, Bonilla Bernal exited his vehicle and walked towards the Academic building. While leaving the lot, he saw a black pouch on the ground.
He said, “I picked up the pouch figuring someone must have lost it. I thought it might contain some important documents like an ID card, credit cards or a passport. When I opened the front pouch pocket and looked inside, I saw a large bulge of money.”
He continued, “When I opened the pouch’s large middle pocket, I saw a stack of $100 bills. I suddenly became so frightened, I ran as fast as I could to my classroom and reported to my English Instructor, Theo Castillo. I told my English instructor, ‘Mr. Castillo, we have a situation here.’”
Castillo asked, “What happened? Why are you frightened and shaking?” Bonilla Bernal replied, “I found a pouch with a lot of money which I believe is more than $2000.”
Castillo took Bonilla Bernal to his acting supervisor, Ismael Mercado. Bonilla Bernal gave the pouch to Mercado who took all the money out from the pouch. After counting all of the money, Mercado confirmed it contained $4000.
Bonilla Bernal said, “Although I was shocked the pouch contained so much money, all I could think about was the person who lost it. I wondered whether the person was worried in his or her class or whether he or she had returned back to the parking lot to look for the lost money. Next, I saw the supervisor had an email message sent throughout DLI asking if someone lost money, they needed to report to his office.
“He really saved my life!” Senior Chief Petty Officer Lee, South Korean Navy
The next day, Senior Chief Petty Officer Kwi Seong Lee, South Korean Navy, and Mercado came to Bonilla Bernal’s classroom to thank him for finding and returning the money. The SCPO, almost in tears, shook Bonilla Bernal’s hand.
Lee was asked, “What were you doing with so much money?” He replied, “I was buying a new car. During my lunch break, I went to the bank and withdrew $4000 from my account. Because my lunch break was almost over, I parked my car in the lot next to the DLI track and soccer field and ran to class. I had placed the pouch that contained the money in my large side pants pocket.”
After school, Lee was selling his current car for $4000 to buy a larger vehicle that cost $8000. After he sold the car, Lee went to the Used Car Dealership to buy the new vehicle. When he arrived at the Dealership, Lee discovered the pouch that contained the $4000 was gone.
He said, “Because the school was closed, I went to the DLI 24-hour Operation building front desk and reported that I had lost money. The front desk personnel told me that they had received an email asking for anyone who had lost money to report to the Academic supervisor’s office.”
The next day, Lee reported to the supervisor’s office and told them that he had lost money. Lee said, “The supervisor told me that he did not know how much money I had in my pouch, I told him it was $4000 and he responded, ‘Really?’ Next, the supervisor counted all the money and verified it was the $4000 that I had lost.”
Seong added, “I was very impressed with the Colombian student’s honesty and the DLI staff for returning my money. When I told my wife I lost the money, she was very upset with me. After the supervisor returned the money to me, I took a photo with the Colombian student who turned in the money and sent it to my wife. I told her that he was my hero. I also gave the Colombian student one of my military unit t-shirts and patches to thank him for what he did. He really saved my life.”
“He taught me that if I found any lost item on base, that item has an owner.” Captain Bonilla Bernal
The Colombian Army captain admitted this is not the first time something like this has happened to him. “In Colombia, I found money that was a sergeant’s rent and I returned it. This money was not my money. I knew that someone had worked for this money and needed it for themselves or their family.”
Of course, some people asked Bonilla Bernal, “Why did you return the money? It would have been a good present for you.”
He replied, “No, this is not a good present. I can’t spend this money knowing that the owner probably needed this amount of money for something very important. If I know that I’m not the owner, I can’t spend this money. I also believe, ‘If you do good actions – you will receive good rewards.’”
Bonilla Bernal called his wife and told her about what he did. She told him that he was his daughter’s hero.
Bonilla Bernal said, “My father was an NCO in the Colombian Army. He taught me that if I ever found any lost item on base, that item has an owner. It is not yours. If you find a phone, backpack or even shoes, that item you found inside the base has an owner. You need to take it immediately to a commander so they make sure that it is returned to the rightful owner.”
Bonilla Bernal wants to be an example for his daughter by being an honest man and setting a good example for her. Col. Sean Raesemann, 637th TRG Commander and DLIELC Commandant, also took the opportunity to thank Bonilla Bernal for his honesty and integrity by presenting him with the DLI Commandant’s coin.
The Colombian military officer added, “I also did this because of my position as a military officer and how I want to represent my country while I am in the United States. Only a few people know I was the person who turned in the lost money. I even had a few DLI students approach me in school and at the Lackland Base Exchange and ask, ‘Did you hear about the Colombian student who found $4000 and returned it? He must be crazy?’ I just responded back, ‘Yes, I heard about this. It is good thing that he returned the money to the owner.’ I hope that when they see this article, they will see that the person who did this ‘CRAZY THING’ was me.”