Vietnam veterans have heartwarming reunion at RDU

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The veterans embraced each other in the airport after nearly 50 years apart

It was a special reunion Wednesday at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport for two Vietnam veterans who haven't seen each other in almost 50 years.

With each passing minute, the anticipation built for Sgt. Roy Sykes.

"I have goosebumps all over," said Sykes.

He waited at RDU for Southwest Flight 2204 from Orlando. That flight brought Sykes face-to-face with fellow Marine Jim Alderman. They last saw each other in 1968 when they served for the Charlie Company 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in Vietnam.

"We saved each other's lives before, so it's like he's closer to me than a brother," Sykes explained.

Time and painful memories they didn't want to revisit kept the two apart...until now.

"My God! It's good to see you, baby," Alderman exclaimed to Sykes when they were reunited at the airport. "This is amazing, amazing. I'm speechless. This is a bucket list I didn't think I was going to make."

Nearly 50 years have passed. They have both married, both had children. But, only they know about the fire fight that almost killed them. Only they share the memories of the death and carnage they can still smell, and the lonely Christmas spent in Vietnam.

"We were so far north that people wouldn't come see us," Alderman explained. "We were dead in the jungle. It wasn't good for us. There was no running water, no flushing toilets, no electricity."

Only they share the fear and sadness that came with their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"When we came back, I was spit on in NYC because I was in uniform," Sykes recalled. "I was called baby-killer. I was called no good. I was called war monger."

The veterans reconnected through Facebook, and now their vows of friendship are renewed. Now, the duo will pick up where they left off. After all, they have nearly five decades to make up for.

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