Reunions
Veteran travels 1600 miles to find family of comrade who fell 50 years ago
He sifted through every name in every rank. One name after another.
Elijah Chan
05.25.22

We can never understand the brotherhood in war until we are there.

Through shared hardships, anxieties, hopes, and foxholes, these men and women in uniform form a special bond that they will take with them forever.

Forever can be a long time.

YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody

In Kentucky, a man stood in front of a tombstone. Little did people know, he has been looking for this spot ever since his duty in Vietnam.

A friendship forged in combat

The friendship of Dennis Chandler and William “Mickey” Coomes was forged in combat.

They both served in the Marines albeit in different roles. Sgt. Coomes was a mortarman while Chandler was a corpsman – the medic counterpart in the army.

YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody

While they came from different parts of the country, that didn’t stop them from being friends.

And when in combat, one will quickly realize that the person beside you can be a matter of life and death.

Chandler and Coomes looked after each other.

Chandler shared in an interview that he knew more about the instruments and weapons they were using because Coomes taught him how to use them.

Tingnan ang post na ito sa Instagram

Isang post na ibinahagi ni HISTORY (@history)

“Mickey taught me how to operate everything the Marines carried.” He said. But it was not the only thing Coomes did for him.

Chandler almost died of hypothermia.

Fortunately, Coomes wouldn’t let Chandler perish under his watch. He and another marine sandwiched Chandler until his temperature normalized.

Tingnan ang post na ito sa Instagram

Isang post na ibinahagi ni HISTORY (@history)

But in times of war, moments of friendship don’t last longer than soldiers hope. And in the middle of the storm of bullets, anything can happen in an instant.

Chandler struggled to push back the tears when he remembered how Coomes died.

“Mickey and I were safe in a foxhole when they had to call up and Mickey went.” He shared “Next thing I knew I hear ‘Corpsman up!’”

YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody

Chandler quickly got on his feet and sprinted to where the call was coming from. When he got to the scene, he was not prepared for who needed his help.

Coomes was down on the ground.

Unfortunately, as much as Chandler wanted to be helpful, there was just no way that he could assist.

YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody

“And when I got there, he was dead.” He said, already close to crying. “There was just nothing I could do for him. He was shot in the back of the head.”

Coomes was shot by a sniper.

“It’s like, you know, the guy saves your life and I wasn’t able to save his.” He said to explain his pain.

YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody

It was the last time he’d ever see or get close to Coomes.

After the war, when everyone has gone back home, Chandler never had the chance to visit Coomes’ grave because he had forgotten Coomes’ name.

Chandler looked for clues on the internet.

He said that something compelled him to click on and start his search in Kentucky.

He sifted through every name in every rank, one name after another. Then, he found a very familiar name.

Now, after nearly half a century and traveling 1,600 miles, Chandler is once more reunited with his long-lost friend.

YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody
Source:
YouTube Screenshot - Kayla Moody

This time, Coomes’ tomb was visited by family and a brother in arms.

Chandler said that it was a closure he needed even if it was 50 years in the making.

And hopefully, as he slowly recovers from the wounds of war, Chandler will find peace together with Coomes.

Learn more about Chandler’s heartfelt dedication to see his friend in the video below!

Please SHARE this with your friends and family.

By Elijah Chan
hi@sbly.com
Elijah Chan is a contributor at SBLY Media.
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