Vietnam Veterans Reunite 42 Years After the War
Army veterans Michael Sanzaro and Ron Colby reunited after 42 years. The old friends fought together during the Vietnam War when injuries forced the two to separate.
Michael was reminiscing over old war photos sharing his experiences with his daughter Melissa. He happened upon a photo of his friends from the Marine Corps Battalion 2/5 and felt sad that he never re-connected with the brave men who fought with him.
Melissa, hoping to fill her father’s void asked him if he tried Facebook. Michael recalled the name of his friend, Ron Colby, a soldier who left the war due to shrapnel injuries. Melissa looked him up, found a profile, and composed a message.
“My father would like to know if you served in golf co 2/5 in Vietnam in 1970?”
A non-technological Ron answered the message nearly 22 days later.
“Yes, I did,” Colby wrote. “Who is your father? I’m sorry I didn’t answer this much earlier. I didn’t even see your message until now. I’m still trying to understand this medium. Obviously, I’m not from the computer age.”
After replying to the message, Ron looked at Melissa’s profile pictures to see if he recognized Michael. Ron saw an older version of his young veteran friend smiling with his granddaughter.
With 1,800 miles between them, the veterans engaged in incessant messaging in an attempt to become more technologically savvy so they could communicate effectively. They shared Vietnam stories and details of their past as well as stories from their current lives and photos of their families.
In his messages, Ron wrote how he had been thinking about his time in the war and how he lost track of most of his fighting buddies.
“You can’t be closer to somebody when you’re depending on them for your life,” he said. “But when it’s over, you just lose track. It’s a whole different life once you’re out of there.”
Yet, according to Ron, some Marines intentionally leave the memories back at the warzone and avoid contacting the men with whom they fought. They are resistant because the memories of fear and terror persist in their minds and any connection to the past may be a painful one.
“Our mission was to constantly patrol the jungles and rice patty areas and keep the enemy from building up,” Michael said. “Probably the biggest fear of almost any combat soldier was the booby trap. No matter where you were walking, anywhere you stepped could have been your last step.”
Michael even hesitated carrying the wounded back to safety since booby traps were located at every turn.
“Maybe I always had a problem with dealing with guys that were wounded,” he said. “I knew them when they were healthy and great and maybe I was afraid to see them after they were healed.”
Once the veterans left for treatment to hospitals and traveled back home, most lost contact and never attempted to re-connect. Those who exchanged contact details lost touch due to changing addresses and phone numbers.
“I came home like I never left,” Michael said. “But I never, ever forget my friends that were killed and wounded.”
Ron and Michael were not victims of the post-traumatic stress their fighting buddies suffered through. However, they occasionally feel strong emotions when confronted with people and objects that remind them of the war. Michael recalls an episode when he saw a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. He noticed his friend’s name and remembered he was killed by a booby trap.
“Within a minute I broke down and started crying, and couldn’t stop crying for a full day,” he said. “I copied his name with a tracer pencil and wrote him a really long letter. I had no idea I had all that emotion built into me, hiding all those 40 years. I always thought I was one of those guys not affected by Vietnam.”
Ron hopes his son who just joined the Army will not have to suffer though the struggles he did.
“Hopefully they’ll never have to find out what war is really like,” he said. “I’m very scared for him, that he might have to go through what I did.”
The friends shared old war stories and kept them light and fun. They recalled all of the good times and tried to forget the unsightly memories while focusing on their friendship.
“You only know a guy for five months, but you think about him every day of your life,” Michael said. “It’s just been a great thrill to talk to him.”