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Brothers in arms reunited


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POSTED: Thursday, September 03, 2009

Two Marine veterans of the Vietnam War who have been searching for each other for four decades will be reunited today in Hawaii.

Mililani resident Lory Segawa and New Jersey resident Jaime Vazquez last saw each other briefly in 1968 at fire base C-2, less than two miles from the North Vietnamese border.

When they meet, Vazquez, a former Jersey City councilman and deputy mayor, will present Segawa, a retired postal worker, with the keys to his city of 250,000 residents.

For his part, Segawa will take Vazquez on a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial and Punchbowl cemetery.

Segawa, who dropped out of Castle High School during his senior year and enlisted in the Marine Corps, met Vazquez when they were assigned to the same platoon in late 1967. Vazquez served as the platoon's machine gunner while Segawa was armed with a 2.5 mm mobile rocket launcher, a light anti-armor weapon commonly known as a LAW.

Vazquez, 60, said in a phone interview that he saw Segawa briefly in April 1968 when he returned to his unit after spending several months recuperating from a grenade wound at a hospital on Guam.

“;Then I got wounded,”; recalled Segawa, 60.

“;I always imagined contacting some of the guys, but it was hard,”; Segawa said. “;I have kept up with guys from my last duty station at Kaneohe, but it's hard to keep track of those from Vietnam. I even visited the Wall (the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.) and looked up the names of the guys I knew who had been killed.”;

Segawa said during the siege at Khe Sanh in 1968, when Marines were pounded for 77 days by North Vietnamese regulars, he took a photo of as many Marines as he could find from his 3rd Platoon.

“;Looking at it now, Vazquez is on the top row,”; said Segawa, “;but about 30 percent of those in the picture are either dead or were wounded.”;

Vazquez, now the director of Veterans Affairs in Jersey City after serving for 12 years as a councilman and one term as deputy mayor, said he has tried during the years to try to find Segawa using Google.

“;The Marine Corps taught us to have a bond of friendship,”; Vazquez said. “;Our motto is 'Semper Fidelis (always faithful).'”;

During lonely night vigils, Vazquez said the two talked about their lives back home, their girlfriends and their future.

At one point 10 years ago, Segawa said he came home to find a message on his telephone answering machine asking for “;Lory Segawa from Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.”;

“;But the tape ran out,”; Segawa said.

Segawa, who retired four years ago after working 27 years as a postal worker, kept up with his Internet search, and the two finally connected last month.

“;I found his name and phone number on a Web site on the antiwar movement,”; Segawa added.

“;I was so surprised,”; said Vazquez, who is now active in the Veterans for Peace organization. “;He asked me if I remembered him. We slept in the mud side-by-side for weeks. We developed a relationship that money can't buy.”;

In addition to the keys to the city, Vazquez will present Segawa with a citation from the Jersey City Veterans Affairs Office. He also wants to give Segawa an 18-inch replica of the Statue of Liberty.

“;That's because the statue is my district,”; Vazquez said. “;Its water and electricity are supplied from Jersey City.”;

For his part, Segawa also plans to take Vazquez to the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery, where his father—Peter Segawa, a veteran of the 100th Battalion—is buried.

“;I am a history buff,”; Vazquez said. “;I have to go to Pearl Harbor. I have been to Hawaii only three times, but the only thing I have seen is the airport.

“;Other than that, we have 41 years to make up for.”;