Ruth Pendergraft lost her husband in the Vietnam War, The Army sent his belongings to his widow, for 50 years that's all she's had to remember him by. The box contained just a few items like his billfold, pieces of clothing, and a ring. A ring that didn't belong to her husband after nearly 50 years Ruth was ready to solve the mystery.
"I still probably think he won it, he played poker over there I know he did, I still think he won it in a poker game," Pendergraft said.
Rolfe Arnhym was fighting the same war as Ruth Pendergraft's late husband. Darrell Heatherly, but the two didn't know each other. Arnhym too his West Point Ring to have a stone replaced while he was on R&R in Hawaii. The last time he saw the ring was when he left it with a Jeweler.
"He didn't have a great deal of love for what we were doing in Vietnam and sort of blew me off," Rolfe said. "Said 'I'm busy I have a lot of stuff to do but I will fix it and I'll send it to you."
The ring never made it back. It somehow became a part of Army Truckman Heatherly's personal effects sent to his wife in Missouri. This year Ruth decided it was time to reunite the ring w/ its owner. After taking it to a jeweler she knew where it came from, West Point, and shortly there after the West Point Ring Recovery Program knew who it belonged to.
"And I said 'I'm anxious to talk to him so are you gonna give me his name? Hahaha and he said yes so he gave me his name. And the gentleman called me the next day and expressed that he was so, he had so much gratitude for me that I was going to give him his ring back," Pendergraft explained.
"Number one, I couldn't believe it,"Rolfe replied. "And it was like the note in the bottle, I could have done the same thing had I put it in a bottle in the south china sea and hang around and waited for it"
So this week Ruth took a plane to Tampa to personally deliver the ring. In a press conference, Ruth returned the ring to a grateful veteran.
“I figure this is the closure I had sort put it behind me, but really I think this is the final act, Rolfe said.
But the mystery remains.
"We compared dates and this man was in Vietnam the same days, same months of the same year and in the same area that my husband was,” Pendergraft said. “They were not in the same company. And they didn't know each other. So we still don't know how my husband got ahold of the ring because apparently it got mailed back to An Khe and somewhere between the mailroom and the owner of the ring, it was gone. So that, we'll never know."
Since retiring from the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant Colonel, Rolfe has written a book, as a sign of gratitude, he gave Ruth a copy.
“It was just the right thing to do, that’s all there was to it. It was the right thing to do, that’s all I can say, is to give it back to him.”
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