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DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And it is time for StoryCorps on this Friday. Today, two Vietnam War veterans who lost touch after the war. Kay Lee was a combat medic from San Francisco. John Nordeen was a soldier from Seattle. They were both in their early 20s when they served together in the Army. Fifty years after leaving the military, they sat down for a StoryCorps to remember how they first met.
KAY LEE: You were one of the first person I talked to. And, you know, I'm from a very sheltered life. So I thought you were a little crazy.
JOHN NORDEEN: And that was part of how we survived.
LEE: After one firefight, he came to me and showed me a helmet with a bullet hole in it. And I can't believe that you're alive. All I can say was, John, I think you have a very hard head.
NORDEEN: Yeah, I remember that day. But that was a day where a lot of other guys weren't as lucky as me. Our platoon went from, like, 29 guys to 10 guys in two days. So the guys that were left, we had even stronger bonds 'cause we had survived this together.
And, you know, when you lose friends, you develop a hard exterior. And you don't want to make friends with anyone else. So I don't have a big circle of friends. I think that's just one of many hang-ups I brought home with me.
LEE: When I got home, most of the time I tried to forget the whole experience and not think about it too much. And I didn't try to contact anyone because I'm not sure you guys wanted to be contact.
NORDEEN: Yeah. Like you, I just melted into the woodwork like a chameleon. But I thought about you, Kay. And one time, I was down in San Francisco. And I ripped a page out of the San Francisco phonebook. It's got all the Lees with the first initial K. And I started going through, making phone calls. How many Lees do you think are out there?
LEE: A lot.
NORDEEN: Yeah. It took years to find you. But I found my long lost buddy. And it was just like we'd never been apart.
LEE: John, we were so lucky. We survived Vietnam, and we're still here.
NORDEEN: Yeah. I've learned from you how to try to stay calm at times, even when the world's exploding around you. And that's why your friendship means the world to me.
LEE: It's hard to describe the friendship and the bond that you form during battle. It's different than most friendship. It's like family now. I feel very grateful for your effort to find me.
NORDEEN: Well, I feel like I'm a treasure hunter. And I found the treasure when I found you.
GREENE: John Nordeen and Kay Lee at StoryCorps in San Francisco, 50 years after serving together in Vietnam. Hear more stories of people reuniting on the new season of the StoryCorps podcast, which you can find at npr.org.
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