The last time Patrick Switzer saw Leno Martinez, they were 19 year olds serving on the USS Boston in 1968.
“We were like family,” Switzer told WLFI. “You depended on him, he depended on me. We covered each other’s backs.”
Nearly 50 years later, the U.S. Navy vets were reunited when Martinez journeyed from his San Antonio home to Switzer’s place in Indiana.
"I see him and I’m thinking back to when we were 19 years old. That’s the way I see him"
“We didn’t look nothing like we did when we served over there,” Switzer said. “We all gained a little weight and stuff, but it was really, really nice.”
Switzer had been trying to find Martinez and, unbeknownst to him, Martinez was also trying to find his military buddy. Finally the old friends tracked each other down.
“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,” Switzer said.
Said Martinez: “I see him and I’m thinking back to when we were 19 years old. That’s the way I see him. All the good times we had together – and bad times – but we all share this together.”
The pair served on the USS Boston beginning in 1967. The cruiser was decommissioned in 1968, according to WLFI. Switzer is one of 10 vets Martinez has kept in touch with, and he hopes to get the entire group together for a reunion. After almost five decades away from his comrades, Martinez told WLFI that he’d learned an important lesson that he hopes other vets don’t forget.
“Not to give up on their friends,” he said. “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.”