Veteran's Desk Set Being Returned To Family – Brevard NC

 

The desk set of deceased Vietnam War veteran Capt. Lawrence Dring will be presented to his family at 1 p.m., today, at a special ceremony at the American Legion on Morgan Street in Brevard. (Courtesy photo)

Editor's Note: The following was submitted by Howard A. "Sarge" Thiele of Red Fox Lane in Transylvania County.

One day last year, while visiting some friends, the wife showed me an old item in their garage she had been given by a friend some 25 years ago.

I saw a dilapidated wooden desk set originating from Thailand, which I recognized as an officer's desk set from my time in Vietnam. When I was asked if it could be restored, I accepted the challenge. This is the story of an item which travelled halfway around the world and ended up forgotten in a garage, awaiting its proper home.

During the Vietnam War there was a soldier, Capt. Lawrence Dring, who seems to have stood out amongst his peers and all American patriots. Dring was a captain in the Special Forces and worked with the Montagnards, who were the indigenous natives throughout the highlands areas of South Vietnam.

Dring received five Purple Hearts, four Bronze Stars, two Soldier's Medals and two Silver Stars, among many other awards and decorations. A quote about Dring by Special Forces Master Sgt. (retired), John A. Morrow, went something like this: "Larry was quite possibly the most lethal soldier to ever wear the Green Beret."

Dring, having served multiple combat tours in Vietnam, found himself between combat tours and stationed in Thailand. While there, he had a unique desk set made by a local Thai craftsman.

A desk set is usually placed on the front area atop the desk and contained his name, rank and branch – in this case "Infantry." It is not known how the possession of this desk set passed through so many hands, but Sgt. Howard "Sarge" Thiele, who is the commander of the Transylvania County Honor Guard, was approached by Madelyn Meyer, who asked if he could do anything to restore the desk set and possibly return it to Dring's family.

The desk set was quite unique and a bit troublesome.

On it were two elephant tusks and two hand-carved elephants, one of which was missing and the remaining one broken beyond repair.

The worst part of the whole project was that the name, rank and other pertinent information about Dring were all hand-cut letters spelling out all of the information, but most of the letters were missing.

Meyer received this desk set from a former Special Forces soldier named Stephen Lee Robertson, who came into its possession possibly when Larry was uprooted from his command and reassigned back to Vietnam. It is only a guess, but Robertson probably secured the desk set with the hope of one day returning it to Dring. The Special Forces are a small elite group of soldiers that crossed each other's paths many times during their careers. Anyhow, at one point Robertson met Meyer and knowing her love of everything elephant, passed it on to her. It remained in her possession for approximately 25 years until she met Thiele and asked him to see what he could do with it.

There it stayed in Thiele's garage until one day while cleaning, he picked it up and noticed that when the sunlight shined at different angles across it, he could see faint images of the missing letters and numbers.

He was totally shocked to see that he could read the entire area where most of the missing letters once existed. One of the members of the Transylvania County Honor Guard, Joe Smith, a local woodworker, was enlisted to manufacture the missing letters and numerals. Smith made all of the new letters and they were carefully attached during the restoration process. A pair of Thai hand-carved elephants were located, with real ivory toenails and tusks, and added to the piece. It was carefully and totally disassembled, thoroughly cleaned and re-stained, reassembled and the finish coated to look like new (or recently removed from Dring's desk in Thailand).

Next came the most bizarre task. Dring's family home was in Summerville, S.C., so we collectively began the search for his family so that we could return the desk set to them.

During one of the many battles and fire fights in which Dring was involved in Vietnam, he met his wife, Rebecca.

During action near Pleiku, Vietnam, Dring and his team were searching for enemy snipers when they got more than they bargained for. They came across an element of hard-core North Vietnamese infantry. Severely wounded, Dring and his men arrived at a house that had an American nurse and her team huddled inside to wait out the firefight.

The nurse, Rebecca, and her team worked feverishly to save the lives of the wounded, including Larry, who suffered severe wounds that could have cost him his life.

The teams finally tore out the back wall of the house, got Dring and others into an ambulance, and fled the scene to the nearest military treatment facility. How ironic that the nurse who saved his life would later become his wife and the mother of his children – David and Larry III.

Searching for the Dring family in Summerville, S.C., was fruitless. It was learned that Dring died on July 25, 1983, and was buried in the veteran's cemetery in Beaufort, S.C. Thinking that his widow, Rebecca, may be living nearby, we searched all the records around Beaufort and Summerville for her or the sons, but without any luck.

As a last resort, Thiele approached a friend, Mike DiRocco, a retired Special Forces soldier, and asked if there was anyway to locate the family. DiRocco suggested contacting the Special Forces Association in Fayetteville and telling them what we were trying to accomplish.

I explained in the letter to the association that I wasn't seeking information that was private, but if the association could locate the family, it could explain what our task was and they would be free to give my contact information to the family so they could contact me.

About three weeks later, Dring's daughter-in-law, Rhonda, called me. Winning the lottery couldn't have excited me more. Later that day, I spoke with Dring's son, Larry III. He explained why we were unable to locate his mother, Rebecca. She had moved out of South Carolina to North Carolina. When I asked where in North Carolina, the answer was another shock. "Asheville," he said.

Since that call, we have been coordinating with the family, the Transylvania County Honor Guard and all others involved to return the desk set to the Dring family.

A special presentation and memorial service will be conducted at 1 p.m., today, at the American Legion on Morgan Street. A reception beginning at noon, with light refreshments, will precede the ceremony, at which Brevard Mayor Jimmy Harris will speak.

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2017

Rendered 01/14/2018 22:17