A very precious findLocal man discovers ring lost by Army staff sergeant
When Danny Buckner says, in his low-key way, that he's "three for three," he's not talking about any sport. He's talking about helping people with his trusty metal detector. Though the Canton resident has fun just exploring the county with his device, he also has a knack for recovering things people have lost — and often long since given up trying to find.
Each of these discoveries has touched Buckner, from that wedding band that had been missing for three years to that class ring that had been gone 28, but none pulled at his heartstrings like his latest find. It's another ring, recently lost in the snow by Bret Newmyer, Army staff sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division, currently stationed at Fort Bragg.
"Bret, he's real excited about it," said Buckner.
Excited is hardly the word. Newmyer explained that he thought the ring was gone forever after he lost it at the rest stop on I-40 near the Tennessee line a few weeks ago. He, his wife and 2-year-old son had been visiting family out in Missouri, and on their way back east had taken a break there. Playing in the snow, his fingers near to frozen, Newmyer hadn't felt the ring slip off. It wasn't until they reached Asheville that he even realized it was gone. Frantic, the family had turned the car around and Newmyer had searched the rest stop as best he could. Nothing.
"I didn't expect I'd ever see it again," he said.
It was heartbreaker, as this was no ordinary accessory to him. Though it looks like a normal class ring, the piece actually celebrates Newmyer's continuing career in the military. He bought it for himself for $700 in Italy 2006, before his third deployment, and it bears his unit and initials. He meant it to both signify his future in the service and to commemorate the choice he'd made to join up after the Sept. 11th attacks. He was 33 then and had a good-paying job as a manager at a sheet metal plant, but he felt he could do more with his life. Even though he knew his age would set him apart from most of his fellow enlisted men, he felt called.
"I need to step up and volunteer and do my part," he remembers thinking.
It was a "big jump," he said, one that led him to Iraq once and Afghanistan twice. When he bought himself the ring, he was single, and just wanted to do something to help him remember that pivotal time in his life.
Needless to say, when he lost this little part of his history, he was crushed. Still, he had to get home, as he was on convalescent leave following a surgery, and there was only so much energy he could expend looking. He ended up leaving a note with the rest area about the ring and continuing on his way.
"I didn't expect I'd ever see it again," Newmyer said.
Clearly, he'd never met the likes of Buckner. When Buckner, whose son works at the rest stop, heard of Newmyer's loss, he didn't waste any time, especially once he knew this had all happened to a military man. He called Newmyer right away.
"I told him I was glad I could help the military out," Buckner said, looking back. "They're doing enough for us right now."
Buckner sprung to action, loading up his metal detector and driving those several miles to the rest stop. That first go-round was unsuccessful, so he came back a second day and kept looking. Still, he had no luck. Buckner, however, wasn't backing down.
"If that ring was down there, I was going to find it," he said. "I was determined to find it."
The third day started out seeming just as unsuccessful. Five minutes passed, then 10. Suddenly, after about 15, everything changed. Buckner's detector went off, alerting him to the ring, mashed into the soil about a foot.
When asked what it feels like to reunite someone with something they've loved and lost, Buckner was initially a little lost for words.
"Oh, it makes me feel good," he said, pausing for a moment. "And I tell you what, the best feeling is when you reach down for something like that, when you know you've found it, when you get it in your hand. It's a feeling I can't describe, believe it or not."
Newmyer can probably relate. Even days after the fact, he was continuing to come to grips with this roller coaster of emotions.
"I'm just still in shock over the whole deal," he said, adding that he's "thrilled to death" to be reunited with the ring.
It's a sweet, sweet story and for Newmyer — who recently turned 44 and just celebrated his 11th year in the military — this isn't the end of it. It's the beginning of a friendship with someone he deeply respects. He feels blessed, he said, that Buckner is the one who found his ring, as someone else could have easily pawned it or sold it for the gold. Instead, Buckner went above and beyond anything Newmyer could ever have expected. He believes their families will now be forever intertwined.
"He's a very special person," Newmyer said. "I'm going to stay in touch with these guys probably the rest of my life."
Though Newmyer has already told Buckner he's going to give him something special, something to express his gratitude, he talks like he can't ever really repay the kindness Buckner has shown him. He wishes he could say that Buckner's actions seem commonplace, that anybody in the same situation would do the same thing, but he knows better.
"The world needs people like that," he said.