Former Marines Jim Volkmar and Arthur Phillips always wondered what had happened to each other. They last saw each other more than four decades ago in as a haze of morphine as doctors worked furiously to patch them up.
Volkmar was a platoon commander, Phillips his radio operator. On that March day in Vietnam in 1969, they had set out to help rescue members of their platoon who were pinned down by the Viet Cong.
As they made their way through a cornfield, a device, possibly a mortar, exploded in their midst.
"It picked me up, and I did a summersault and landed on my back," said Volkmar. "I saw Arthur was standing rigidly and his finger was on his throat, and blood was coming through his fingers."
Both men were picked up by helicopter and flown to their base ship.
"They took me to the operating room," said Phillips. "I was sprayed head to toe with shrapnel."
Doctors also worked on Volkmar, whose left foot, leg and arm were severely injured.
It was the last day the two men ever saw each other. Phillips was sewn up and returned to combat. Volkmar spent nine months in military hospitals and was then reassigned to the U.S.S. Hornet in Long Beach, Calif.
This year, Phillips was trolling the Internet and stumbled on an article on the website TogetherWeServed written by Volkmar and recounting that day he and his radio man were wounded. Phillips realized he was that radio man, and that this was his long-lost colonel.
The next day, the two were able to connect by phone. It was March 13 of this year, 44 years to the day they were blown up.
"If you ever want to see the hand of God at work, this is it," said Lt. Col. James Volkmar who made a career out of the Marines.
"I recognized that voice right away," said Phillips. "You know, I haven't heard that voice in 44 years."
The two talked for more than an hour.