School rings bought in Vietnam remain mysteries
Friday, March 22, 2013
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — They could have been lost forever, long-forgotten mementos from home perhaps worn on a finger or carried in a pocket for good luck.
Somehow, the two 1970s-era high school rings found their way into the hands of jewelry merchants in Vietnam. Now, they are waiting in Kentucky for their original owners.
“My first thought that crossed my mind was, ‘You know, this ring might have come off a dead American soldier.’ That’s the first thing I thought about,” said Dan Cherry, a retired Air Force brigadier general who has one of the rings at his home in Bowling Green.
“You stop and think all the places this ring has been? From the beginning? It’s amazing.”
The other ring has been sitting on the desk of Donna McGuire, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County school system, for more than a year.
McGuire recently posted a note on the system’s Facebook page in search of the owner of the 1970 Montgomery County High School ring. The note attracted attention from local media outlets, but no clues.
That ring was languishing in a Vietnam store when a U.S. contractor working in Thai Binh City spotted it in February 2012.
Rick Dunn of Easton, Penn., haggled a bit with the merchant, then bought it for about $30.
“For me, this is only about returning the ring to its owner especially if it was tied to the war back in the early ’70s,” he wrote in an email to The Associated Press earlier this week.
The silver-toned ring with a red stone sported an image of an Indian on the side — the mascot at Montgomery County High.
“One thing you will say when you finish this is that you don’t get this kind of email every day,” Dunn wrote in an email that month McGuire, telling her of his discovery.
Soon after, Dunn mailed the ring to McGuire. It still sits on her desk in Mount Sterling, Ky. It has no identifying marks such as initials, but an image of an eagle can be seen through the stone.
She is convinced the ring belonged to a member of the 1970 graduating class because of the eagle feature. At that time, several schools had consolidated, and one of them had an eagle as a mascot.
An Internet search for personal items of U.S. military personnel found in Vietnam turns up a plethora of dog tags, and at least one website, www.topvietnamveterans.org , has lists of dog tags in its possession.
There are often concerns that such items are counterfeit, and no one has investigated that possibility with the rings. But McGuire said the ring appears to be legitimate.
“It looks like the real deal. It has ‘925 sterling’ stamped inside, and I’ve had people from the class tell me that it looks like their ring. Why would someone make a counterfeit Montgomery County High School Class of 1970 class ring?” she said.
Dunn said the detail appeared to be too intricate for it to be counterfeit.
The ring in Cherry’s possession is well-worn and has the name “Jostens” etched inside — the name of one of the nation’s largest manufacturers of class rings.
“I never looked into that because it looks so authentic,” he said.
Cherry received the ring as a gift from a friend, Nguyen Hong My, a former Vietnamese war pilot. Hong My told his friend he bought it in a jewelry shop simply because he liked it. The ring has no identifying marks or initials.
The two men hoped to personally return the ring to its original owner, even going so far as to obtain a list of all the members of the school’s class of 1972 who joined the military. So far, their search has been unsuccessful.
In the case of the Montgomery County ring, McGuire said the school district doesn’t have any copies of the 1970 Montgomery High School yearbook. She showed the ring to the director of the local history museum, who also happened to be a 1970 Montgomery High School graduate, but he wasn’t able to help, she said.
“And I talked to a couple of former principals to see if they could remember what kids would’ve been there, and I really didn’t have much luck,” she said.
Dunn said this week he remains hopeful the ring will find its rightful owner, and he has since purchased another ring he found in Vietnam that he hopes he can return.
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