On an Aggie Ring Day full of tradition and celebration across the Brazos Valley, Texas A&M student Jonas Lossner put on his ring — a ring that, were it not for a discovery in a forest 73 years ago and more than 5,100 miles away, would almost certainly not have been his.
At first glance, Lossner, a mechatronics student from Germany, did the same thing close to 6,300 students did Friday: take pictures, right thumb raised, with friends, family and mentors. His older brother, Sebastian, a member of the A&M class of 2016, flew in to celebrate with Lossner.
But as he put it just after a lunch and a presentation inside the Miramont Country Club in Bryan: The story of Jonas Lossner’s ring, his older brother’s and the ring that brought the Lossner family to Texas, “is a story that only Aggieland can write.”
In November 1944, an A&M former student named Turney Leonard, a member of the class of 1942, was seriously injured in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest near Kommerscheidt, Germany. Leonard’s 893rd Tank Destroyer Battalion — led by national championship-winning Texas A&M quarterback Marion Pugh — was surrounded by German troops in a dugout.
Before being taken captive, Leonard asked an officer to move his ring to his right hand from his left hand, according to information provided by former Corps of Cadets Director Buck Henderson. Nothing more was known about Leonard’s fate until 1949, when his remains were discovered during an examination of the former dugout command post.
Leonard was buried in Dallas in May 1950 — Pugh served as a pallbearer — but his ring was still missing.
In 1946, a 15-year-old German named Alfred Hutmacher took a job helping Americans search for fallen soldiers in the Kommerscheidt area. According to multiple speakers at Friday’s event, Hutmacher found a large gold ring and put it in his pocket, then took it home and placed it in a drawer.
It remained there, forgotten, until Volker Lossner — Jonas and Sebastian’s father and Hutmacher’s son-in-law — verbalized an interest in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest.
“None of this would have been possible without Turney Leonard sacrificing his life to liberate Germany,” Jonas Lossner said.
From there, the ring found its way to Aggieland. At a ceremony on Nov. 11, 2000, the day Oklahoma’s top-ranked football team escaped College Station with a 35-31 victory, Volker Lossner came to Texas from Germany and presented the ring to Douglas Leonard, Turney’s brother.
“I thought this is the end of the story,” Volker told The Eagle in September 2015, when Sebastian received his Aggie ring. “Everyone is happy. They got back their ring, my father-in-law was very happy, and I really thought it was a good end.”
But in 2007, James K.B. “Jim” Nelson, a member of the class of ’49, said he would financially support Sebastian and Jonas if they enrolled at Texas A&M. Both did, which Nelson described Friday as “a great and glorious thing.”
“Marvelous relationships have revealed themselves through the years,” Nelson said of getting to know the Lossners. He said that a group of people that included himself and Henderson visited the Lossner family in Germany, bonding over “delicious” strawberry shortcake.
On Friday, Volker Lossner said the “second family” of Aggie former students and faculty who have supported his sons has comforted him.
“Many wonderful things have happened to us,” Volker Lossner said Friday, addressing the approximately 40 people in attendance. “Seventy-eight years after Turney Leonard received his ring, 19 years after I brought the ring back to Texas A&M, and three years after Sebastian received his ring — today Jonas is getting his ring and continues and builds the strong bond between our family and Texas A&M University.”
Artist Benjamin Knox attended the ceremony with his wife, Renee, and presented Jonas with a piece to mark the occasion. In his remarks, Knox said he first met Volker Lossner in 2000 during his first visit to Texas.
“Our paths continued to cross,” Knox said. “I look at this story as not just a story of the Aggie spirit, but as a story of love, of hope and unity, international unity.”
In brief remarks at the close of the event, Sebastian expressed pride in Jonas’s decision to also become an Aggie, and that his younger brother has created his own path.
Jonas Lossner said his first visit to College Station from Germany came in 2007, when A&M’s football team defeated Baylor.
In Jonas’s remarks, he also praised a number of other mentors in the room with him as he put on his ring for the first time.
“There are no words to fully express how grateful I am for the opportunity to come here, study what I’m passionate about, and pave the way for me to give back to the very same people who made me who I am today,” Jonas said.