Leroy Meyer graduated from Montgomery County High School in 1965.
When he left, he had a class ring and an initial ring from his mother. He had no idea that those rings would live a separate life from his.
A year after he graduated, during the Vietnam War, Meyer was drafted. But rather than meet the terms of the draft, he enlisted in the Navy. He was later assigned to the USS Ajax (AR-6) and his home port was Sasebo, Japan. There, Meyer hung out with George Tinko, and together, near the age of 20 or 21, they were a tough pair.
“We fought and had a lot of fun together,” Meyer said. “A lot of fun.”
They had so much fun, Meyer would run out of play money before the play was over. In a hurry for cash, to keep the good times going, he would pawn his two rings and then get them out of pawn when he got paid.
Somewhere around 1969, perhaps bolstered by youthful confidence, the two friends decided Vietnam needed them. They both would be doing shore duty at Da Nang military base in Vietnam.
The change of duty happened so fast that Meyer didn’t have time to get his rings out of hock before he left Japan. He gave a trustworthy sailor, Jim Schuermann, some money to get his rings out of pawn.
“The reason I picked him was because he didn’t drink,” Meyer said. “The other guys would have spent it.”
Meyer and Tinko went to training. Meyer went to Camp Pendleton military base in California. Although they would have the same assignment, Tinko arrived in Vietnam first. When Meyer arrived, he learned that Tinko was dead.
Meanwhile, Schuermann heard about Tinko’s death and heard Meyer had drowned. When he returned home, he placed the rings in a box with others mementos from the war, and that was were they remained for 48 years.
Meyer thought he ran off with his money and his rings were in a pawn shop in Japan — or someone had bought them from the shop.
“I’d given up on them a long time ago,” Meyer said. “I never thought I’d see them again.”
Meyer returned home to Jonesburg after his time in the military. Since then, he married, raised two children and now has four grandchildren.
Then came a surprise in January. Schuermann had decided to track down Meyer’s family, if he had one, to return the rings. That detective work eventually led him to Meyer’s cellphone.
In that call, Schuermann introduced himself, and Meyer immediately knew who he was.
“When you give someone money and you don’t get it back, you don’t forget it,” Meyer said.
Schuermann told Meyer, “I got your rings from the pawn shop.” The two met in person for a two-hour visit and Meyer came home with the two rings he had left in Japan almost 50 years ago.
“I’m glad to get them back,” Meyer said.