EDISTON, Pennsylvania (CBS) – After 70 years, a Dutch Army officer arrives in Delaware County Friday morning to bring back a ring from 1946 St. James Catholic High School owned by a Korean War veteran in Delaware County.
Dutch Army Lieutenant Colonel Jos Groen heard about the episode from a Dutch Army veteran in 2020.
“At the beginning of the corona period, of course, as is the case here in the United States, the elderly were very much isolated,” said Lt. Col. Gruen. “We decided to call all the veterans to hear how they were doing.”
The Dutch soldier told Lieutenant Colonel Gruen that he had received his separation ring from another Dutch soldier, who had obtained it from an American soldier during the Korean War in the 1950s.
Lt. Col. Gruen said it was unclear why the American soldier gave the ring to the Dutch soldier, but Lt. Col. Groen wanted the ring to be returned to the surviving family members of the American soldier.
Using the signs and inscriptions of the ring as evidence, he discovered that it came from St James’ Catholic High School in Chester.
The Saint James Alumni Association identified Private Joseph Sullivan, a 1946 graduate of the school.
The association posted a photo of the ring on its Facebook, which Melissa Jenkins, Sullivan’s older niece, immediately recognized as her great-uncle’s separation ring.
“It was exciting, just knowing it was something from our family, and that she traveled from Pennsylvania to Korea and then back here,” Jenkins said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s just such a heartwarming story and it’s great to get that piece back.”
After two years of online contact, presenter Gruen personally returned the class ring to Jenkins at a Friday noon party at the Bulldog House of the St. James Alumni Association.
“Allow me to present you the ring of your uncle, Mr. Joseph Sullivan, a veteran of the Korean War, and I am glad that I can return it to your family,” said Gruen.
Despite pledging allegiance to different flags, Gruen 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 honored to be here,” Gruen said.
The end of the journey of the ring is only the beginning of a friendship that will last a lifetime.