By Brandon OConnorJanuary 30, 2020
Standing in front of the crucible during the West Point Association of Graduates' ring melt Friday with his grandfather's ring in hand, Hobart Hewett took the only action that felt right-donating it to be melted down.
The ring had been missing for years, but the Saturday before Thanksgiving while cleaning out his mother's room he made a startling discovery in the form of a worn ring of gold. Hewett had heard of the ring, but never actually seen it in person with its crest for the U.S. Military Academy's Class of 1921 engraved on the side.
His grandfather, Maj. Gen. Hobart Hewett, entered the academy during one of the most fraught times in American military history. Although they still used the crest for 1921, he and his classmates graduated two years early in 1919 so they could join the fight in World War I.
After finding the ring, and with a good idea of its significance, Hewett sent it to Lt. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, the commander of Army Space and Missile Defense Command and a member of the USMA Class of 1987, to confirm it was a West Point class ring. It was Karbler who then suggested donating it to the ring melt to give it a second life as a part of the Class of 2021's rings.
Having found it just in time to donate to his grandfather's 100-year affiliate class, Hewett said it would take a lot to convince him it wasn't the spirit of the ring that led them to find it so it could be part of the melt.
"I talked to other acquaintances I have that advised me that academy rings are earned, not given. For me to think about wearing it is senseless," Hewett said. "These rings aren't just rings. They're not just pieces of metal. They become what you are, and they all have a lot of spirit and that spirit is going to help guide you."
Hewett's donation of his grandfather's ring was a late addition to this year's ring melt and brought the total number of rings donated to 41. In all, 616 rings have been donated since the melt's inception binding together the Long Gray Line spanning classes from 1896 to 2001.
The ring from 2001 was donated this year by Melissa Thomas, USMA Class of 2004. It belonged to her husband Maj. Christopher Thomas who died in 2015. Melissa Thomas said she thought about donating her husband's ring within a year of his death but was waiting for the right moment to do so.
After doing the math, she decided his 20-year affiliate class was the perfect time to donate so every 10 years when they return for their reunions her husband would be there as well celebrating another decade since his graduation.
"It was one of his prized possessions when he first got it being a prior service enlisted," Melissa said. "He didn't have a lot of money compared to other people, so he had to scrape together to get the ring he did have. It wasn't the most expensive thing, but it meant so much to him that he owned it and made it through to get it and then graduate."
Last year marked the first time the melt was held at West Point, and the tradition continued this year with the donation ceremony taking place in the Haig Room atop Jefferson Hall and the melt taking place in Bartlett Hall.
The 41 rings and a few grams of legacy gold, which is extracted from the melt each year to tie each of them together, were melted down into a gold bar with "WP" imprinted on one side. The block was then presented to Balfour Ring Company to be included in the making of the rings for the Class of 2021.
"The magnitude of the decision that you've made to donate your rings is not lost on us," Class of 2021 Cadet Adam McElligott, the class' ring and crest chair, said. "The rings you gave us hold elements of the ring owner's character and facets of their selfless leadership. We feel that their commitment to the Long Gray Line and to our country will strengthen us in our remaining time at West Point and into our careers."
Before donating her husband Kenneth Bloomfield Jr.'s ring, Rose Bloomfield took a few moments to tell those assembled about a man who she said lived the academy's ethos of Duty, Honor, Country, every day until his death. Each of those days upon his finger was the crass mass of brass and glass he received as a member of the Class of 1964.
Rose Bloomfield said she decided to donate his ring because, at the end of the day, West Point is where it belonged. And while his ring may now be gone to live another life alongside the Class of 2021, the miniature version he gave her as an engagement ring all those years ago remains on her hand.
"He was West Point to the core. He loved this place. It gave him a whole different life," Rose said of her husband. "It had to be done. After he died, the ring went to his son, and it was his son who said it belongs to West Point."
The members of the Class of 2021 will receive their rings during Ring Weekend in August and for Class of 2021 Cadet Drennan Greene the moment when he opens his ring box will be a chance to reconnect with his grandfather. Along with his dad Jon Greene, Drennan donated the ring of his grandfather Edwin Greene, USMA Class of 1947.
The ring was a gift to Drennan from his grandfather who passed away after Drennan received his West Point appointment, but before he was able to see his grandson join the academy on Reception Day.
"I always will have a memory of my grandfather, and he always wore that ring," Drennan said. "Now, when I don my ring this upcoming August, knowing there's an actual physical piece of him right there with me on my hand, that just adds to this entire experience of my time here at West Point."