Dutch Army Officer Returns Class Ring Carrying Decades Of History To Delaware County Family
/ CBS Philadelphia
EDDYSTONE, Pa. (CBS) -- After 70 years, a Dutch army officer arrived in Delaware County Friday morning to return a St. James Catholic High School Class of 1946 ring belonging to a Delaware County Korean War veteran.
Dutch Army Lt. Col. Jos Groen heard about the ring from a Dutch army veteran in 2020.
"At the start of the corona period, of course, like here in the U.S., the elderly were isolated a lot," Lt. Col. Groen said. "We decided to call all the veterans to hear how they were doing."
The Dutch soldier told Lt. Col. Groen he received the class ring from another Dutch soldier, who got it from an American soldier during the Korean War in the 1950s.
Lt. Col. Groen said it's unclear why the American soldier gave the ring to the Dutch soldier, but Lt. Col. Groen wanted to return the ring to the American soldier's surviving family members.
Using the ring's markings and inscriptions as a guide, he discovered it came from St. James Catholic High School in Chester.
The St. James Alumni Association identified the soldier as Joseph Sullivan, a 1946 graduate of the school.
The association posted a photo of the ring on its Facebook, which Melissa Jenkins, Sullivan's great-niece, immediately recognized as her great uncle's class ring.
"It was just exciting, just knowing it was something from our family, and that it had traveled from Pennsylvania to Korea and then back here," Jenkins said. "It's just incredible. It's just a story that's heartwarming and just nice to have that piece back."
After two years of online communication, Lt. Col. Groen personally returned the class ring to Jenkins at a Friday afternoon ceremony in the St. James Alumni Association's Bulldog House.
"Let me present you the ring of your uncle, Mr. Joseph Sullivan, a Korean War veteran, and I'm happy that I can bring it back to your family," Groen said.
Despite pledging allegiance to different flags, Groen says American and Dutch veterans share a close bond, especially after World War II.
"You fought for our liberation so we think we should always do something for American veterans, so I'm very honored to be here," Groen said.
The end of a ring's journey is only the beginning of a lifelong friendship.