Vietnam vet's lost West Point ring returned after decades

Veterans Day is taking on a whole new meaning for a New Tampa man. The Vietnam vet will be reunited with his original West Point class ring. It was lost during the war.

But 49 years and thousands of miles later, Rolfe Arnhym's original class of 1953 ring will finally be back on his finger.

"At the age of 9, I decided I wanted to go to West Point. Ten years later, I was there," said Arnhym.

Arnhym's home office looks more like a museum.

"This is a picture when I took over in infantry battalion in Vietnam," he said pointing to a photo.

The retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel has done a lot in 85 years. But for 49 of them, he's wondered where his West Point class ring went.

"I never saw it again," Arnhym said.

Arnhym graduated from the West Point military academy in 1953. He never took that ring off, wearing it as he got married, and even while serving in Vietnam.

"When I was on a combat operation, something made me look down at my class ring, and I noticed that the stone was gone from the ring," Arnhym said. "I said something to my radio operator, who was right next to me. Here we are in triple canopy jungle and stuff going on and we couldn't see that far in front of us. We looked down and that stone was at his feet."

Arnhym stuffed it in his pocket. A few months later, while getting some rest in Hawaii, he said he brought it to a jeweler for repair.

"He didn't have a great deal of love for what we were doing in Vietnam and sort of blew me off and said I have a lot of stuff to do, but I will send it to you," Arnhym recalled.

The ring never made it back to base camp. Arnhym eventually got a replacement, and figured the original was long gone. That is, until the phone rang this year, right before Labor Day.

"A lady had my ring," Arnhym said.

Ruth Pendergraft's husband was killed in action in Vietnam. The ring ended up being found in a box of his belongings in Joplin, Missouri.

"When she took it to a jeweler to have it appraised, they noticed my name was on the inside," Arnhym said.

How it got where it did is still unclear. But Arnhym isn't concerned about that.

"I couldn't believe it," Arnhym said. "It was like the note in the bottle. I could have done the same thing with putting it in a bottle in the South China Sea and hung around L.A. waiting for it."

On Tuesday, the day before Veterans Day, he's not only getting his ring back, he's getting closure.

"It closes a loop of a lot of unhappy memories," Arnhym said. "I served two tours in Vietnam and twice, I had to come back through the airport in San Francisco and I could've gotten into a fire fight every 10 feet with somebody who didn't feel the same way I did about my service. I'm able to put it behind me. I had sort of put it behind me, but this really is the final act."

Arnhym's ring will be presented Tuesday morning, 41 floors up at the Tampa Club. The special ceremony will include Pendergraft, along with several other Vietnam veterans.

FOX 13 will be there and bring you the final piece of this story.