A few weeks ago, one of our vets, Nick Steri, called to say he planned to visit an old crew mate, the other remaining survivor of LSM 32, the Landing Ship, Medium Nick served on in the Pacific in WWII. The crewmate, Jack Collins, lives in Binghamton, NY. One Thursday, Nick flew from Pittsburgh to Binghamton to visit his old friend. A very sharp and kind reporter, Matt Porter of WBNG-TV, did this nice story on the reunion:
Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Jack Collins was only 17 years old when he went to war.
And now 67 years later, he’s about to meet up with his only surviving shipmate, Nick Steri.
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When asked what he will do when he sees Steri for the first time, he said, “I don’t know. I don’t know. He sent a hat to me, he wants me to wear it when I get there, so I will.”
Getting in the car and driving to the airport, Collins was calm as if going on any other trip.
But nothing could prepare the 86-year-old sailor for the moment to come.
As the 85-year-old Steri walked out of the gate, cane in hand, in a red navy jacket, Collins broke down and cried.
“You haven’t changed in 67 years, old buddy,” called out Steri.
“I’m so glad to see you,” Collins replied.
Like magnets, the two instantly walked and embraced.
As the two held each other, Steri told Collins, “We;re still here. We’re still walking.”
“That’s right,” Collins said.
In a nod, Steri added, “I see you’ve got the hat. I’ve got the old one.”
Moments after Steri’s arrival, Collins had to take a seat overcome by emotion.
“It’s been a long time Nick,” Collins said tearfully.
“Yes, a long time,” Steri replied.
At Collins’ home in Binghamton, the men were upbeat and excited as if they were 17 again.
They enjoyed the moment, the product of a difficult mission.
“There’s two or three times we tried to get together,” said Collins, “And always something would happen. And then he called me up a month ago and said, I’m gonna come up and see ya”
Steri said he was glad to make the meeting happen.
“Because we’ve talked so much and we’re both not really young,” he said.
The two had almost seven decades of catching up to do.
“My youngest grand daughter,” Steri told Collins, “She’s pitching softball. Fast pitch.”
Amidst laughs and tears about days past, they hope future generations will take note.
“The air you breathe, it costs you,” said Steri, “It didn’t cost you, but it cost a lot of your friends and relatives.”
Two men from a ship of just 60, finding each other one more time.