Vietnam War roommates reunite more than 40 years later on Facebook

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comSeptember 16, 2013 

Ward Hinze Jr., left, with his Vietnam roommate David Pope in June.

  • Email David Lauderdale at dlauderdale@islandpacket.com.

Thanks to Lynda Hinze of Bluffton for sharing the story of a Vietnam reunion.

"A Special Bond"

By Lynda Hinze

The story really began in December 1966 when Ward Hinze Jr. from the midsize Midwest town of Racine, Wis., received a letter from the Selective Service requesting that he report for active duty.

He was 19 and had not been much farther than 100 miles from home.

On Jan. 24, 1967, he reported for basic training at Fort Jackson. After finishing basic training, he was sent to Fort Gordon, Ga., where he attended school for his assignment to the Military Police.

About the same time, another young boy, David Pope, from Fayetteville, Ga., a small, then rural, suburb of Atlanta, received the same letter. In June 1967, Ward boarded a plane heading for Saigon, Vietnam, a country about which he knew very little.

In Vietnam, he was introduced to many new faces, most of whom would come and go over the next year. He did have two new roommates whom he came to know quite well during that year. One of them was David Pope. In June 1968, his tour of duty in Vietnam over, Ward returned home to the United States.

Forty-two years were to come and go before the story continued.

By 2010 many social media sites had surfaced. Ward kept up with friends from back home over email and was just learning how to browse through Facebook. On Sept. 2, 2010, he received notice of a Facebook entry. He found the message on Sept. 7. The entry bore the name of David Pope. The message read: "Looking for Joe Hinze. Not sure if I have the correct person. Looking for Joe Hinze who I roomed with, along with Keith Smith, at the 716th in Saigon, in 1967. Would that happen to be you?"

Ward came into the bedroom where I was reading a good whodunit. He was as white as a sheet and looked like he had seen a ghost. He read the message to me. I said, "Well, send a reply."

He wrote: "Yes, how have you been? I have often wondered about you and Smitty, and some of the other guys. I am now retired and living in South Carolina in a town called Bluffton. It is just five miles west of Hilton Head Island, and enjoying every minute of it. How about you?"

On Sept. 8 he received an answer. David's message summarized what he had been doing and that he lived near Atlanta.

On Nov. 1, 2010, David wrote that he was coming to Hilton Head, and the two of them made plans to get together. They were not able to meet due to an emergency. Over the next year or so they exchanged news off and on through Facebook. In January, David wrote that he had not been feeling well and would be having some tests.

They began to correspond on a more regular basis. Ward would often ask if there were any messages for him to read. During this time I started to realize that it was important for them to get together and, at some point, I asked my husband if he would like to go see David. His reply was, "I would like that very much."

Also during this time, we learned that David was undergoing chemotherapy. On June 9, Ward messaged and asked David if he was up for a visit. His answer was, "Anytime you want to come." I made reservations and plans for us to go to Atlanta on June 23.

We left early on that Sunday morning. Ward dropped me off at the Country Inn in Fairburn, Ga., and went to Fayetteville to meet David. They spent the afternoon reminiscing and catching up. It had been 45 years since they had seen each other. At supper time, they picked me up and we all had dinner together.

It was amazing to meet David, amazing to see them together, and amazing to get to know him. My first thought was that they could have been brothers, and fit the old clichè "one born in the North, one in the South." They were a lot alike. Their lives had taken different paths but they had picked up right where they left off 45 years ago.

On Monday when we left, Ward said he was going to go back in August.

July and August weren't kind to David. In July, a hold was put on his chemo and in August he was hospitalized for about a week at the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur. His daughter was wonderful and updated us during the week, so we knew how things were going. Ward called and told David he would like to come back and visit in September.

On Sept. 5, Ward went back to Fayetteville, and at David's insistence, stayed with him. He met his daughter and her husband and three boys. They shared pictures, stories, newspaper and magazine articles. They did some sightseeing.

And the story doesn't end. Rather, it is "to be continued." Ward will go back, or maybe we will both go next time. It is only four hours away, and we have all formed a very special bond.

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