By Sharon Porta: Times Correspondent
It’s been more than three decades since Jim Chancellor survived a helicopter crash in Vietnam and returned from his tour of duty as a door gunner with a Purple Heart and Heroism medals. Yet even after all this time, Chancellor, of Hobart, is still determined to help others get over the trauma of war, as he did himself.
“I know about war, I’ve been there,” Chancellor said. “There is not a lot being done for the young veterans, and war never goes away. These people are living in constant fear of their lives.”
Throughout the years , Chancellor worked as a veterans advocate and became active in many veterans organizations, raising money for the families of Indiana POW’s and working on the construction and maintenance of many veterans memorials throughout Northwest Indiana. He also presented programs to high school and college students on the effects of war. “I like to make a difference,” Chancellor said.
Part of the healing process for Chancellor was designing a ring for Vietnam veterans. “I was tired of everyone’s opinion about Vietnam,” he said. “So in 1982, I designed a ring to honor and respect veterans’ service to the country and service to comrades in arms.”
Chancellor didn’t want it to look like a class ring, so he used a black map of Vietnam, inserting a cubic zirconium at the area where the veterans served. Chancellor presented the ring to Gen. William Westmoreland and Bob Hope and sold thousands more. He heard from hundreds of people about the rings. Some were never able to wear them, the reminder of Vietnam was too great. Another man used his as his wedding ring, making a duplicate for his wife.
People called to order and talked to Chancellor about their experiences for hours. “I have a stack of letters from people telling me they recognized other vets from the ring, that it’s a key to starting a conversation with other vets,” Chancellor said. After 9/11, Chancellor went back to jewelry design.
He created the American’s Veterans collection to honor veterans of other theaters of combat. Chancellor designed a WWII ring that depicts the well-know ‘ruptured duck’ symbol, a Korean War ring and now the patriot ring to acknowledge the efforts and sacrifices of veterans of engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“When a veteran comes home, they are distinctly different person from when they left,” Chancellor said. “If these rings do as much good as the Vietnam ring, I’ve done my job.”