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MILITARY MATTERS EXCLUSIVE: War Hero’s Long Lost West Point Class Ring Found on Fort Benning

Published: Mar. 16, 2022 at 7:06 PM EDT
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FORT BENNING, Ga. (WTVM) - A military hero’s piece of jewelry was lost for more than seven decades on Fort Benning, but what happened next is like something out of the movies.

“It’s one in a million, this is why I don’t gamble, who could’ve predicted this, it’s beyond comprehension,” Former Army Infantry Officer & Colonel’s son Don McCunniff said.

Decorated Korean War hero Colonel Tom McCunniff led generations of troops as an infantry officer for 25 years, on and off Fort Benning. His two sons and two daughters returned there to celebrate what would’ve been their dad’s 100th birthday -- but that wasn’t the only reason.

As the story was told during a ceremony at the National Infantry Museum, LTC (Ret) Michael Denehy told attendees “this ring falls however far, 800 or 1,000 feet.”

McCunniff lost his coveted 1945 West Point class ring while making a parachute jump on Fort Benning. And 74 years later, there was an amazing find!

“It was magical. We have such a legacy here on Fort Benning,” youngest son McCunniff told us.

While a Natural Resources Management team was doing a survey for nearly endangered gopher tortoises on the Army installation, Ryan Young saw something unique and shimmering in the sand of Lee Field.

“To see a gold ring that was just sparkling in the sunshine, that was a little bit different,” Fort Benning Planning Forester Ryan Young said, describing how he found the ring.

They say tanks may have helped unearth the 14K gold ring, which could’ve gone the way of finders keepers, but Young quickly wanted to get it to the family of Colonel McCunnniff, who he found via Facebook.

“I immediately knew it was a very historic item. There’s not very many people that graduate from West Point,” Young added.

Also, three decades after his ring disappeared, McCunniff may have been steps away from it, while on Fort Benning, pinning wings on his son Don, a soldier who was graduating from jump school.

“I made the 5th jump. got my wings on Lee Field (Fort Benning), dad lost his original West Point ring on Lee Field, and is wearing his new West Point ring,” son McCunniff said.

What would their dad have thought about this ring discovery and recognition?

“He would be humbled...and he’d be most pleased that we were all together,” COL McCunniff’s daughter Kelly Hicks said.

Colonel McCunniff’s children reunited at the National Infantry Museum to get the original West Point class ring back. “Overwhelming joy to get it (the ring) back to them and see the joy in their face,” Young told News Leader 9.

Five years after his death, his kids had the chance to honor their dad, show their love for the military, and share stories about that famed ring.

“I think it’s just great that both my brothers will have a piece of their dad, a physical piece of jewelry that belonged to their dad,” Hicks said.

“It’s humbling to be here on this occasion, to honor this good man and recognize, like so many in his generation, they gave so much,” McCunniff said.

“My dad was a true hero,” Hicks added.

Hero has a nice ring to it.

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