After 4 decades, former Vietnam War shipmates are brothers once again

The Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration works hard to make sure the nation's veterans are properly laid to rest.
By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2010; 10:01 PM

Mustang Billy bit his lip as he waited with his black POW-MIA flag at the end of the airport walkway for his old shipmate, Foggy, to get off the flight from Charlotte on Thursday.

Billy - Bill White, 63, of Germantown, had not seen Foggy - Jim Ryon, 63, of Chattanooga - since they parted ways on the old Navy destroyer USS Stormes in Norfolk four decades ago.

In those days, they had been 20-year-old sailors, heaving powder and shell into a five-inch gun amid the smoke and noise of the number-two mount as the Stormes plastered the coast of Vietnam in September 1966.

Thursday morning at Reagan National Airport, they were two middle-aged men who had now lived the lives that were once before them, looking back on Veterans Day to see whether the old bonds were still there.

At 8:59 a.m., White, a distinguished-looking man in a white shirt and red V-neck sweater, spotted a smiling, portly, bearded chap with a gray ponytail walking up to him with a suitcase.

It was Foggy.

They embraced, slapped each other on the back and shook hands.

"Oh, man," Ryon said. "Bill! Look at my buddy."

They embraced again. "Welcome home, brother," Ryon said. "What a day!"

"This is my boy," White said.

"Forty-four years," exclaimed Ryon, who was wearing a Vietnam War-motif lapel button that read "Brothers Forever."

"Life," White had said earlier with a snap of his fingers. "Here's 44 years that's gone by, and it seems like yesterday."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company