A group of Marines reunite in Florida to recreate a photo they took on a sunny Oceanside, CA beach- over half a century ago.
According to KENS5, four US Marine veterans finally regroup after over fifty years, having split up when they were shipped off to Vietnam in the mid-1960’s.
“We just broke up,” said 70-year-old Bob DeVenezia. “Life is funny like that. I didn’t keep in touch with any of them. There was something about the Vietnam War and the negativity we kept hearing.”
In 1966, the four Marines were part of a weapons platoon stationed near San Diego. As the Vietnam War began to intensify, the young men knew they would be going eventually.
It would be two years they would spend together, both in training in combat. Subjected to horrific conditions and intense combat two of them earned Purple Hearts- all of them carried the scars of war.
“We had the tools. We had the training,” DeVenezia said. “But nothing trains you for your first combat. Nothing. Zero.”
Following the end of their 13 month tours, the all went their separate ways and fell out of touch. Given the stigma of fighting in an unpopular war, it was -and still is- rather common for comrades to grow apart, with many wanting to just go on with their own lives.
The men all had their share of success after the war. Bob DeVenezia would work construction in New Jersey; Bob Falk in retail management in Florida; Tom Hanks in investment banking in Atlanta and Dennis Puleo in home security. Still, despite success, something was missing.
Roughly half a decade ago, Falk stumbled across an online memorial Hanks had made for a mutual friend that had been killed in the war, planting the seeds of reunion as the men slowly tried to get in touch.
Initially, the reunions would be spotty at best. Schedules didn’t always match up and the ravages of old age, families and responsibilities took their toll on the men. Still, efforts were made to get back in touch with each other.
One day, Hanks found an old photo depicting the four of them at the beach with a surfboard. Though none can remember the exact day of the photo, it is estimated to be in early May of 1966. Still, the photo evoked so much emotion of bygone days, the guys knew what they had to do- recreate the photo.
“It’s a really funny picture,” DeVenezia said, “but one with a lot of heart behind it.”
The photo, originally taken by the Pacific in Oceanside, California, would be recreated by the Atlantic in Saint Augustine, Florida. Though all of the men now stayed in touch, it took a little prodding to get Puelo to make the two-hour drive from Orlando.
“The truth of the fact is, I didn’t want to come,” Puleo said. “I could have said ‘no’ 12 times.”
Despite the difficulty in rallying up, the guys fell right into rhythm once they settled into the high-rise condo overlooking the ocean.
As noon drew close, they borrowed a longboard from a St. Augustine resident who was touched by their story. Propping it vertically like the board of decades ago, each man sucked in their guts and posed as they did fifty years ago.
Just like that, history came full circle.
“Mission accomplished,” Falk said as he walked back from the beach.
Now young men in aging bodies, the four war comrades went out to eat lunch, trying to tell their life stories in three minutes or less. When the food arrived, Puelo said grace for the group, who had survived everything from warfare to old age to stand in front of a surfboard together half a century later.
“We all know,” Puleo said, “that we’ve been given a gift of 50 years.”
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