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Mike and John Reconnect at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

When Mike, age 74, reflects on his service in the U.S. Army, he remembers some of the most challenging times of his life in the jungles and battlefields of Vietnam. And throughout the most difficult moments, his friend John was by his side.

“It is amazing how you can develop a friendship in a time of war and stress; that friendship is different than any other relationship,” Mike explained. “You become bonded in such a way. Especially when you both try to keep each other alive.”

John, age 78, feels the same way. “When you are in a situation and a place like that, you make friends fast,” he said.

Mike received his draft letter in 1968, but he took his future into his own hands by enrolling in the Army. After completing Basic Training, he learned how to become an air traffic controller. He first served in an airfield in Alabama and was sent to Vietnam shortly after Christmas in 1969.

John also enlisted in the Army in 1968 and found himself on a train headed to Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for Basic Training before heading to Colorado Springs to complete Signal School. He was then sent overseas to Vietnam.

Both men were assigned to the Army’s 366th Aviation Support Detachment, 1st Aviation Brigade, where they eventually found themselves sharing bunks. Mike and John quickly became best friends, looking out for each other however they could.

On May 11, 1969, a large enemy force attacked their unit’s post at the Oasis. They were vastly outnumbered and faced hundreds of attackers.

Amidst the chaos of the battle, Mike witnessed a grenade explosion that wounded his Commanding Officer and another man. Without hesitation, Mike and John sprang into action. John provided cover while Mike ran across enemy fire to get the wounded men to safety. The pair helped administer first aid to the wounded soldiers and were able to defend their post successfully.

“We lost 4 of our friends, including an 18-year-old who had just gotten there a few weeks ago,” John shared. “Thankfully, Mike and I and five or six others were not wounded.”

After the battle, their unit was bestowed a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism in action that day. Mike was awarded a Silver Star for his gallantry in action, and John received a Bronze Star in recognition of his valor.

Soon after, their unit became spread out. After leaving Vietnam, the two friends had no way to contact each other.

Many years later, John’s phone rang. He heard a voice on the line say, “This might sound strange, but I am looking for a friend of mine who I served with in Vietnam 50 years ago.” Hardly believing it could be true, John replied, “Mike, is that you?”

Unbeknownst to Mike, John had also spent many years searching for him. Regardless of the time that had passed, the friends were connected by a bond that could outlast years of separation.

“We had supported each other in a perilous situation,” John explained. “It was so good to reconnect with him.”

When Wish of a Lifetime heard the story of these brave Veterans, we jumped at the opportunity to help them reconnect while also honoring their service. Mike, alongside his wife Jeniel, and John, accompanied by his wife Sandy, met in Washington D.C. to experience firsthand the monuments and memorials commemorating their service.

The pinnacle of the trip was walking alongside the glistening names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Together, they searched until they found the names of their fallen brothers in arms who had perished during that fateful battle.

Because names are listed chronologically by date of casualty, John and Mike could see their friends’ names listed together, forever united on the Wall.

“They are gone, and you are still here; it is emotional,” John shared. “I think about it all the time that those four people are lost because of that night. And there are 58,000 other people on that wall.”

After they parted ways, the friends shared with us that this was one of the most meaningful ways they could have imagined renewing their 52-year-long friendship.

“It was everything we could hope for and then some,” John said. “You enhanced our relationship.”

Mike shared that experiencing Washington, D.C., with his friend by his side made the experience so meaningful.

“We got to pick up right where we left off,” he said. “It will be such a great memory for many years to come.”

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