Veterans, friends reunite after almost 50 years

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – It’s a friendship that’s withstood the test of time and distance.

“We haven’t seen each other in 48 or 49 years, and just out of the clear blue it was just unbelievable we were trying to get in contact with each other again,” said Lafayette resident and U.S. Navy Veteran Patrick Switzer.

About a year ago, Switzer said he got a call from fellow U.S. Navy Veteran Leno Martinez.

They kept in touch and eventually Martinez made the trip from his home in San Antonio, TX to reunite with Switzer in Lafayette.

“We didn’t look nothing like we did when we served over there,” said Switzer. “We all gained a little weight and stuff, but it was really, really nice.”

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“I see him and I’m thinking back to when we were 19-years-old,” said Martinez. “That’s the way I see him. All the good times we had together, and bad times, but we all share this together.”

Switzer and Martinez served on the USS Boston from 1967 until the cruiser was decommissioned in 1968.

Switzer was in charge of the material handling room, and said he depended on Martinez to send up shells to the ship’s gun mount.

“We were like family,” said Switzer. “You depended on him, he depended on me. We covered each others backs.”

When times were rough, Martinez said he could count on Switzer.

“He was the clown of the group,” said Martinez. “He was the one that had us all laughing. When anyone was down or homesick, you’d go to Patrick and he’d put a smile on your face.”

Switzer is just one of 10 veterans Martinez has kept in touch with.

Martinez said it’s become a quest to travel the country to visit all 10 men, and Switzer is the eighth stop on the list.

It’s been nearly 50 years, but Switzer said he’s glad his friend made the trip.

“You just become really good friends, and dependent on each other,” said Switzer. “The bond is just there.”

After miles of traveling, Martinez has some advice for other veterans.

“Not to give up on their friends,” said Martinez. “The times you all had. Not to forget the past. Yes, that was part of your history, but don’t forget your friends. Maybe make it a point at some time in your life to still get together.”

Martinez arrived in Lafayette Thursday, and on Saturday he and Switzer headed to Kokomo for a combat veteran reunion.

After visiting all ten of his fellow veterans, Martinez hopes to get them all together for a reunion.