Veteran Returns Wounded Buddy's Prized Possession After 43 Years

hunting knifeThe last time Sgt. Frank Cybulski saw his hunting knife was in in 1970 when was wounded by a mine in Vietnam, hospitalized, and finally sent home. His friend who was beside him when he was injured, former Army platoon Sgt. Loyd Cates kept it and held onto it ever since, keeping it clean and sharpening it every so often over the course of the last 43 years.

Cates said that one of the "most difficult things about being in Vietnam," obviously well before Facebook and email, was that "you got close to people and when you put them on that helicopter, you never heard from them again.” But still, he "felt that someday I would see him again. I was going to hold onto it," Sgt. Cates told the Detroit News. That someday came this week.


After more than four decades, Cates looked for Cybulski on Facebook, first contacting Bill Deskins of Warren, creator of the “I grew up in Hamtramck before 1985” group. (He knew his old friend was from Hamtramck, Michigan.) Deskins, who is also a Vietnam vet, dug up a phone number for Cybulski’s ex-wife, who passed along the message. But Cybulski said he was hesitant to revisit the painful memories, and initially did not respond ...

But Cates was persistent, reaching out again to The Detroit News, which also called Cybulski's ex-wife. It was then that he finally got in touch out of respect for Cates. "I'd follow that guy any place, I really would," he said. Aww.

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As a result, Cates was finally able to return his hunting knife to Cybulski. “I just stared at the box for like 10 minutes. I opened it up and pulled the knife out. That’s when I started crying," the 64-year-old vet admitted.

And this isn't just a story about a knife. The two men resumed their friendship, which is amazing in itself. As Cates said, "Anytime you run into an old Vietnam buddy ... you just take up where you left it." I'm sure that's especially true of one who held onto your prized possession for so long, with hopes of returning it to you one day.

Now, Cybulski must feel his knife has even greater meaning, but he doesn't plan to keep it to himself ... He wants to carve the number 754 into its handle — the number of men from the brigade who died in the war. “I can’t forget those guys. Never," he said. And then he'd like to take the knife to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. He explains:

My grandson just turned 2-years-old, and it’s very important to me to walk that wall and touch it with him. I want to place that knife at the wall in Washington and leave it there.

Incredible. Sounds like Cybulski's plan is a longtime coming -- and an absolutely perfect one to boot.

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Image via © Ocean/Corbis

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