A war hero’s long-lost West Point class ring has been found at Fort Benning

FORT BENNING, Ga. (WTVM) – A military hero’s jewel was lost for more than seven decades at Fort Benning, but what happened next looks like something out of the movies.

“It’s one in a million, that’s why I’m not playing, who could have predicted this, it’s beyond belief,” said Don McCunniff, former Army infantry officer and son of the colonel.

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

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

McCunniff lost his coveted 1945 West Point class ring while parachuting over Fort Benning. And 74 years later, there was an incredible discovery!

” It was magical. We have such a heritage here at Fort Benning,” the youngest son McCunniff told us.

As a natural resource management team conducted a survey of nearly endangered gopher turtles on the Army installation, Ryan Young saw something unique and glistening in the sands of Lee Field.

“Seeing a gold ring shimmering in the sun was a little different,” said Fort Benning planning forester Ryan Young, describing how he found the ring.

They say the tanks may have helped dig up the 14-karat gold ring, which might have been the Guardians’ way, but Young quickly wanted to get it to Colonel McCunnniff’s family, which he found through facebook.

“I knew straight away that it was a very historic element. There aren’t a lot of people graduating from West Point,” Young added.

Plus, three decades after his ring went missing, McCunniff may have been just a few steps away, while at Fort Benning, pinning wings on his son Don, a jump school-graded soldier.

“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 of this discovered and recognized ring?

“He would be humble…and he would be very happy that we were all together,” said COL McCunniff’s daughter, Kelly Hicks.

Colonel McCunniff’s children gathered at the National Infantry Museum to recover the original West Point class bell. “Overwhelming joy to return (the ring) to them and see the joy on their faces,” Young told News Leader 9.

Five years after his death, his children had the chance to honor their father, show their love for the military and share stories about that famous ring.

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

“It is humbling to be here on this occasion, to honor this good man and to recognize, like so many others of his generation, that he has given so much,” McCunniff said.

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

The hero sounds good.

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