Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Rolfe Arnhym was reunited last week — just in time for Veteran's Day — with a 1953 West Point class ring he hadn't seen in 49 years.
The karat gold ring featuring an amber-colored center stone was the 85-year-old Tampa native's favorite piece of jewelry. He wore it during his wedding ceremony and took it to battle when he served in Vietnam. Arnhym remembered vividly how he almost lost the center stone during a mission in 1966.
"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 told Fox 13 in Tampa. "I said something to my radio operator, who was right next to me. Here we are in triple canopy jungle [with] stuff going on and we couldn't see that far in front of us. We looked down and that stone was at his feet."
While on leave in Hawaii, the lieutenant visited a local jeweler to try to get the stone reset. The jeweler promised to send him the repaired jewelry via mail, but the ring never made it back to basecamp. Heartbroken over the loss of the cherished ring, Arnhym arranged for an exact replica, which he has worn for nearly five decades.
“I thought about it. I wondered about it," Arnhem told WFLA. "I had no idea where it could have been.”
Then in August, Arnhem received a phone call from Ruth Pendergraft, the widow of a soldier who died in Vietnam. Pendergraft had been sorting through some of the belongings of her late husband when she encountered a West Point class ring with a yellow center stone. The inscription was not that of her husband's name. It said, "Rolfe Arnhym."
“I had to do something. I had to find the relative or the person who owned this ring," she said. "I knew it had to be special to the owner, but in my mind, I didn’t think he was still alive.”
The widow from Joplin, Mo., contacted West Point, which was able to connect her with Arnhym. On Tuesday of last week, on the eve of Veteran's Day, she traveled to Tampa to return the ring to the man who last saw the ring nearly five decades ago.
"I couldn't believe it," Arnhym told Fox 13.
During the presentation, which attracted local and national press coverage, the former soldier proudly displayed both of his West Point class rings.
It's still not clear how and when Pendergraft's husband received Arnhym's ring, but that twist in the story was of little concern to Arnhym.For Arnhym, a class ring comprises far more than the gold, gems and inscription. "It’s a physical manifestation of a strong bond and link that exists between each graduate and West Point and with each one of our classmates," he said. "That bond only grows stronger over the years.”
Credits: Screen captures via wfla.com, fox13news.com.