On its golden surface, the Aggie Ring is a testament to the pursuit of a higher education. But underneath resides a story only the ring bearer can tell. For Jonas Lossner, that story began 73 years before he placed Aggie gold on his finger.
This Ring Day, the mechatronics senior celebrated the acceptance of his Aggie Ring surrounded by family and former students at the Miramont Country Club in Bryan. This intimate setting away from campus was chosen to ring in Jonas’ achievement and reminisce on a contribution the Lossner family made to Aggieland before they had even known of it.
In the winter of 1944, outside of Kommerscheidt, Germany, the Battle of Hürtgen Forest was waged for over 140 days and nights, injuring or claiming the lives of 33,000 American GIs. Among the fallen was Medal of Honor recipient Turney Leonard, class of 1942, whose remains were recovered in 1949, though his Aggie Ring was not. This is because three years prior, 15-year-old Alfred Hutmacher, Jonas’ grandfather, discovered Leonard’s ring while assisting American forces in relocating the graves of fallen soldiers.
Intrigued yet unaware of its importance, Hutmacher placed Leonard’s ring in a shoebox, where it sat for over 50 years before being returned to the university by Jonas’ father, German Lt. Volker Lossner. Upon the ring’s return, Volker Lossner remarked that he was overwhelmed by the graciousness the Aggie community greeted him with, and he knew this hospitality would ease a worried mind.
“The thing I was thinking about the next day when we had breakfast together was I needed to make a phone call to my father-in-law,” Volker Lossner said. “At that time he already was an old man and suffering from his disease, but I got him on the phone and I told him, ‘Papa, they don’t hate us. They love us.’”
Back in Germany, the Lossner family received visits from a handful of grateful Aggies, two of whom were Donald “Buck” Henderson, Class of 1962, and James “Jim” Nelson, Class of 1949. Their gatherings consisted of jubilance and a unanimously favored strawberry shortcake. In 2007, Nelson, moved by the Lossner family’s selflessness, offered his own contribution: assisting the Lossner sons’ education if they chose to attend A&M.
“We were so impressed with what we’d seen in the Hürtgen Forest and the Lossner family that we met that we felt it was wonderful to have these two beautiful young boys come to Texas A&M,” Nelson said.
After a few trips from Germany to Texas, the family accepted Nelson’s offer and their oldest son, Sebastian, Class of 2016, became the first Lossner Aggie. Taking in his younger brother’s big day, Sebastian Lossner remarked, “You can’t make this up,” and said they will always cherish where life has taken them.
“I have never felt as proud as I am today,” Sebastian said. “With him having the ring and us sharing the story, I think this has brought us even closer together.”
Also in attendance for the ceremony was Bryan-College Station-based artist Benjamin Knox, who gifted the Lossner family his first printing of a Class of 2020 Aggie Ring. Knox described the Lossner family story as a destiny that has only just begun.
“I look at this story as not just a story of the Aggie spirit, but a story of almost predestiny,” Knox said. “That predestiny is a story of love. It’s a story of hope and beauty, international unity, and with these fine young men carrying the torch now, the next generation is your generation and you guys are going to be the ones that set the tone.”
As Jonas — one of the “luckiest guys” to attend A&M, according to Henderson — took to the podium on Friday, he addressed the room with “a story that only the Aggie family could write.”
“None of this today would have been possible without Turney Leonard sacrificing his life to liberate Germany, my grandfather holding onto a ring — seemingly insignificant — for over 50 years, and my father realizing there was so much more to this ring than anybody could have ever imagined,” Jonas said.
With his Aggie Ring on his hand and an intersecting German-U.S. flag pin attached to his lapel, Jonas said it will always be important to share the Lossner family story because “former enemies” can become friends — even family.
“There are really no words that could ever express how thankful 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. “The Aggie family.”