A City Tech alum and Vietnam War veteran was reunited with a class ring he lost almost 50 years ago during a mission, thanks to another Vietnam vet he had never met until Friday, November 14.
City Tech’s Saluting Our Veterans Reception brought together Army Specialist David Pagan, a former Williamsburg resident, now living in Queens, with Sergeant Mel Gunderson, a South Dakota native.
Pagan, who graduated from City Tech in 1964, told the story of when he was drafted—mentioning that, in those days, they had little time to pack their belongings.
“The only thing I had [of value] was my ring,” Pagan said.
After a month-long trek through the jungles of An-Khe, Vietnam in 1965, Pagan, a point man of the company, realized that he had returned to base camp without his ring.
“When I got back I couldn’t even hold my duffle bag,” said Pagan. “I lost the ring.”
A short time later, Gunderson — who had spent 41 days in the jungle between 1965 and 1966 — found Pagan’s lost ring in the fields Gia Lai Province.
Gunderson took the ring home to South Dakota, hoping to reunite the sentimental jewel—engraved with the initials DDP—with its rightful owner, but was halted by the fear that this person might not have made it out of Vietnam.
“When I got home, through the years, I did look at it occasionally,” Gunderson said. “I wasn’t sure if he had made it out or not.”
This year, however, around June, Gunderson said he “ran across it again.”
“It’s a burden for 40-or-so years to have something that really doesn’t belong to you,” said Gunderson.
The South Dakotan asked a friend to help him reach out to alumni relations at City Tech. He was put in contact with Jessica Malavez, director of alumni affairs at the college.
Malavez searched through school records and found that there was only one person in the graduating class of 1964 with the initials DDP. It was David Domingo Pagan.
Dr. Russell Hotzler, president of City Tech, praised Malavez and thanked her for putting together “such a special event.
“It’s just a phenomenal story,” said Hotzler. “You will be in awe of how serendipitous life can be.”
Malavez said being able to put the event together was “definitely an honor.”
After a short video presentation about the two veterans, Gunderson presented Pagan with the ring. In return, Pagan gifted Gunderson with dog tags engraved with his name and the years he served.
“There’s one thing, when you’re a GI, you never leave behind. And that’s your dog tags,” said Pagan. “I don’t know if he still has his, and he probably does, but I did bring a replacement for him just in case.”
The two men embraced after the exchange.
“I’m very proud to be here with you,” said Gunderson.
“Our story hasn’t finished,” Pagan said. “We just met. We have a lot of reminiscing to do.”