Friday night, two men swapped war stories downtown, real ones.
For the first time in more than four decades, the pair met face-to-face at a New Orleans hotel. The last time they saw one another, they both were seriously injured in combat in Vietnam.
The two were part of a squad that was trying to help some fellow Marines trapped by sniper fire. The located the men and began to move in.
“We had gone maybe 10, 15 feet and this explosion took place,” said James Volkmar. “It picked me up, turned me over, and dropped me back down on by back.”
At another location inside the hotel, Arthur Phillips also recalled the explosion.
“Everything kind of blacked out for an instant,” Phillips said. “And I could feel blood running down my arm.”
Both men are retired Marines. Phillips served one tour in Vietnam. Volkmar made a career of the service. The injuries they suffered in the attack led to the end of their service in Vietnam.
Volkmar says it may have been the hand of God that led to the men’s reunion. He has posted his account of the explosion on a website called TogetherWeServed.com. Before long, Phillips read the account on the same site. An email and a phone call later, and the two reconnected on an unimaginable day.
“Now this was on March the 13th,” said Phillips. “Exactly 44 years to the day after the explosion.”
The two men agreed to meet in New Orleans. WGNO News was there for the reunion.
44 years since the explosion, Volkmar is married with six children. Phillips recently married for the first time.
Moments into their meeting, Volkmar joked, “Since you just got married for the first time to maybe name your first child after me.”
The 65-year-old Phillips laughed.
“Well we’ve had one miracle. Why can’t we have two?” asked Volkmar.