Facebook reunites Milford Vietnam vet with company-mate

MILFORD – Jack Stratton and Frank McGee hadn’t seen each other in nearly half a century following a shared experience that many today would have difficulty imagining.

Enlisted in the Marines, the two military veterans fought together in a war half a continent away.

Former Marine company-mates Frank McGee, Jerry Flaherty and Jack Stratton reunited for the first time in nearly five decades since returning home from the war in Vietnam. (Special to The Chronicle/Nita Stratton)

Former Marine company-mates Frank McGee, Jerry Flaherty and Jack Stratton reunited for the first time in nearly five decades since returning home from the war in Vietnam. (Special to The Chronicle/Nita Stratton)

Mr. McGee, who returned home from the Vietnam War months before Mr. Stratton, wasn’t even sure his friend made it back to the United States alive.

“The company we were with was unique. We were there 13 months and then came home, you didn’t get to know a whole lot of people,” Mr. McGee said. “When I left Vietnam in 1969, I didn’t know if they (fellow Marines Mr. Stratton and Rehoboth Beach native Jerry Flaherty) made it back or not.”

Several decades later, a return trip from the northeast that brought him through Milford, where Mr. Stratton has resided since his youth, made him want to find out.

Prior to the internet age, ways of locating a long-lost acquaintance or friend weren’t quite the same as they are today. Those searches likely began with looking through phonebooks. But now living in the time of social media, Mr. McGee had a better idea.

“I kept hounding my wife to get on Facebook,” said Mr. McGee, a father of five who has retired from working in the furniture industry. “She finally got on and we started looking. We came up with a band he used to play in.”

From there, the McGees were able to contact Mr. Stratton’s wife, Nita, and soon after – in June – a phone conversation nearly fifty years overdue took place.

“Talking to him, it was a really big surprise,” said Mr. Stratton, who, now retired, worked for the City of Milford. “Now we talk to each other at least once a month.”

Naturally the first phone call turned into talks of a reunion, and one month later Mr. McGee was on his way north again, this time his destination being Delaware. In the first state, the two old friends also spent time with Mr. Flaherty.

“It was good friends seeing each other again,” said Mr. Stratton, adding that the group talks very little about Vietnam. “We talk about things like camaraderie.”

An even bigger reunion is in the works.

Using social media and other means, Mr. McGee, whose brother also served in Vietnam, has located other company-mates. The plan is for the group to get together either late this year or early next, likely in North Carolina.

“Three that I have been in contact with since returning from Vietnam are in Greensboro (N.C.),” Mr. McGee said. “One is in Raleigh (N.C.), another up in New Hampshire. Several of us are around.”

Whether or not the reunions would’ve happened without Facebook, it’s hard to say. However, that the former company-mates have reacquainted thanks to Facebook is something both find remarkable.

“It’s really changed things,” said Mr. Stratton of social media.

“I’m overwhelmed in a way,” added Mr. McGee. “I thank God daily for getting us together.”

From the Milford Chronicle Sports Desk

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