Wednesday, Sep 30, 2009 @07:42pm CDT
(Branson, Mo) — Imagine catching up with a friend you haven’t seen for fifty years. Wednesday a group of Navy veterans and old friends met in Branson to do just that. Most of the men first met as teens in the 50′s. They served in the Navy’s Patrol Squadron One. This week, they traveled from across the country to catch-up.
The men were based on Kwajalein Island in the South Pacific
“We were 18 and bulletproof,” said Ellis Fowler, a Navy veteran. “[Our mission] was classified still up until I think the 80′s”
“We’ve all thought of each other, I think, through the years,” said another veteran, Leo Waddell.
The group ran patrols and tests for the Navy. While the government experimented with hydrogen bombs.
“To keep the Russian submarines and Japanese fishing boats out of the area,” said Waddell. “[We] tracked the radioactive clouds with our crews.”
After their time together, the men went their separate ways.
“I worked for IBM for 30 years,” said Fowler.
More than 50 years later, the group started to contact each other.
“We started hunting for people and got all the names that we could,” Waddell said.
And as if time had never passed, the group picked up where the photos had tappered off.
“They look a little different, but their spirit is still there,” said Fowler.
“Just like yesterday,” said Waddell.
After three days of telling stories and catching up the men, once again, said their goodbyes, with the hope that the next gap isn’t as long as the first.
The group hopes to meet again in another year or two. Some of the veterans designed a patch. They put it on hats and shirts for the group to wear. They are also working on putting together a book of pictures and bios.
Click the links below to watch two extended web extra interviews:
Veteran Stories: Leo Waddel
Veteran Stories: Ellis Fowl