Return of Ring Stirs Memories of a Past War

In 1968, Jim Setzer gave his high-school ring to his girlfriend. They planned to marry, but broke it off when he was drafted. The ring, lost for years, was recently found in a schoolyard and returned to Setzer. He reflects on the ring and the Vietnam era.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

If you define news as something that doesn't happen every day, Jim Setzer has some news for us. It involves a lost romance, a war, and archaeologists. He's on the line from Belleville, Illinois. Welcome to the program, sir.

Mr. JIM SETZER (Vietnam War Veteran): Good morning. How are you?

INSKEEP: Doing great. Thanks. We should mention that this story also involves a class ring that you gave your girlfriend.

Mr. SETZER: Yes, it does. It does. A long time ago I gave the ring to my sweetheart in high school and got a little bit cold feet. There was a lot going on in my life at 18 years old. I had a scholarship to go to play baseball at a junior college in Missouri. And the war was going on pretty hot and heavy in '68, if everybody remembers.

INSKEEP: This is Vietnam War, yeah.

Mr. SETZER: Yeah. It was pretty tough. And so there was a lot on my mind. We ended up breaking up, but she said she'd wait for me. And she had my ring and I got drafted. Went into the military. Got a Dear John letter in Vietnam from a friend of mine. And she had married my best friend. And I lost track of the ring. I got back and started my life over. And basically lost track of the ring until I was called earlier in this month.

INSKEEP: Called earlier this month about the ring?

Mr. SETZER: Yeah, about the ring.

INSKEEP: Who called you?

Mr. SETZER: A lady called me who had worked at out high school I was at. They tracked me down through the initials in the inside of the ring. It was apparently right behind the Catholic church, which was an old (unintelligible) church built in the 1700s in Cahokia, Illinois, in a town I grew up in.

And they found it in a - deep in the Earth through a metal detector and traced me down. And I was just taken aback. I was just couldn't believe that the ring had been found after 40 years.

INSKEEP: Wait a minute. They were doing an archaeological dig on this centuries-old site and they found your ring from the 1960s.

Mr. SETZER: They sure did. And that's just - I just, I couldn't believe it when they called me up. And - because I had lost, you know, I just forgot all about it. And got back - when I got back from Vietnam, I was in Vietnam for a year and just lost track of it and didn't even think about it when I got back home. Until the phone call, and just couldn't believe it. And still it's hard to believe.

And took it to shop that actually sold it to me. It moved from one town to another. And they fixed it free for me. And it was a little bit tarnished and broke on the bottom, but I've got it on my hand right now. And so it's a - it's come full circle. I know my parents struggled to pay for it. It was $36 and my dad was - he was poor. They didn't have much money. And it was unbelievable. I wish my father was alive right now. And - but unfortunately he passed. But I know he's probably looking down thinking, my goodness, he got his ring back.

INSKEEP: Mr. Setzer, did you have a chance or did anybody had a chance to contact your ex-girlfriend who had...

Mr. SETZER: No, they didn't. You know, when we broke up, it was pretty tough on them, because her family, my family, at the time were expecting us probably to get married. And it just didn't happen. And so when you're young and things happen, it was tough on everybody. So no, they didn't contact her. I don't know how the ring got there. So whether she just tossed it in a fit of anger or whatever. But it did come back to me, so...

INSKEEP: Well, Mr. Setzer, thanks very much. I'm glad it did come back to you.

Mr. SETZER: Yeah. Yeah.

INSKEEP: Best wishes to you on this Memorial Day. Thanks for sharing your story.

Mr. SETZER: Yeah. Thank you, sir, and God bless all the Americans that are fighting right now.

INSKEEP: Jim Setzer, an American veteran telling his story from Belleville, Illinois. He has recovered the class ring that he lost or gave away, and then it disappeared in the 1960s.

This is NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.