1963 Heritage Display - Pat Wynne Ring
Pat's Ring has a central place of honor with our class cups. The original USAFA crest and our own 1963 crest serve as "honor guards" and the toast from the Air Force Song says it all.
Pat Wynne, Class of 1963, was shot down over North Vietnam in 1966. Declared missing in action (MIA) and later killed in action (KIA), Pat's remains were repatriated in 1977. His class ring was missing and considered lost. It took 42 years for Pat's ring to "come home".
The incredible story unfolds below. The class is most grateful to the Wynne family for their gift of Pat's ring. He was a great classmate, his memory endures, his ring binds us all.
While working for Consortium Companies in Southern China, American Herb Schaffner made an amazing discovery at his Chinese wife's family village near the North Vietnam boarder. Her relatives had in their possession a U.S. Air Force Academy ring, class of 1963. The ring has been verified as belonging to Maj. Patrick Edward Wynne, who was shot down over North Vietnam on 8 August 1966.
The Chinese family lived in a small village near where Maj. Wynne, the plane's weapons officer, and Lt. Col. Lawrence Golberg crashed after suffering heavy anti-aircraft fire. Pat died in their hut and was buried but they secreted the ring from NVN authorities. Wynne was listed as MIA until 1974 when his death was determined. The remains of Wynne and Golberg were returned to the United States in Mar 1977. The ring, however, was preserved by the Chinese family until Mr. Schaffner learned of its story in September 2008. Previous attempts by the family to return the ring were unsuccessful due to difficulties for them of distance and language barriers.
The ring was returned to Consortium Companies corporate headquarters in Northern Kentucky where a search to locate Maj. Wynne's family ensued.
Contact was soon made with Maj. Wynne's brother, Michael Wynne, who also shares a distinguished service record, most recently as 21st United States Secretary of the Air Force from Nov 2005 to Jun 2008. Mr. Wynne and the entire Wynne family have expressed tremendous gratitude for having such a treasured, personal heirloom returned to their family.
"It's extraordinary when a ring is recovered from a combat operation. It's extraordinary that it has been retained, found, refound after 42 years and returned. This story will resonate. We have an opportunity to essentially use it in such a way to encourage the wing of cadets at the Air Force Academy to persevere. We have it as an opportunity to encourage the veterans of the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, the Marines that we really do believe in bringing stuff back and bringing it to life again." Michael Wynne, 23 Oct 2008.
On October 22, 2008, members of Maj. Wynne's family gathered in Northern Kentucky where the ring was received with ceremony and appropriate honors. The family gave Pat's ring to the Class of 1963 in the summer of 2010 for initial placement ceremonies in Oct 2010. A formal ceremony is planned during the 50th reunion of the class.
Related items: Press Release (pdf), Northern Kentucky Enquirer Article - published by permission (pdf)