Recently two US Marine Corps Vietnam Veterans got back together after a 44 year gap in their relationship. The reunion was described in the LEX18.com website titled: Vietnam Veterans Finally Reconnect After 44 Years. It was a highly emotional event when Ken Barnell of Sierra Vista, Arizona visited with David Freeze at his home in Pryorsburg, Kentucky.
The writer of this piece recently had a similar experience that helped him appreciate how the two Marine veterans felt. He made contact with his old racing buddy, Al Marmande, of Houma, Louisiana. They were bonded together by their racing experience. After an absence of contact for fifteen years, it was a joyous occasion when they recently spoke on the phone about old times and an upcoming meeting when the writer plans a trip to New Orleans.
Getting back to the Vietnam Veterans reunion, Barnell and Freeze were assigned to the same unit in Vietnam in 1972. They immediately became fast friends but lost touch with each other when they left the country. Barnell rejoined the Marines after a 14 month period of civilian life and retired from the Corps after 21 years of service. Freeze became a welder but could never shake a feeling of aimlessness and bounced from one job to another. He said this about their situation when they came home: “We were sent home and turned loose to survive the best way we could. You can’t live like that, then come home and everything be fine.”
Freeze has an advanced lung disease – partly due to exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. His home health nurse, Julie Purcell, was helping him get his affairs in order and when Freeze expressed a desire to see his old friend, Ken Barnell, from Vietnam, she made it happen. Barnell came up from Arizona and visited with his long lost friend for four days in Pryorsburg. They both had a grand time reminiscing about old times.
Their feelings about their time in country was summed up by these comments. Freeze said: “We were doing our jobs. We were supposed to be there.” Barnell summed up his thoughts on the subject with the comment: “I felt 100 percent in what we were doing, and I wanted to be with men like (Freeze) who I knew I could count on. My job wasn’t to ask why – my job was to do or die.”