Two boys from Santa Clara reached out to each other on the other side of our world. I had written a story about catching a ride on a helicopter that was going to the Cambodian border in 1970 when I was Vietnam. There were two of us soldiers heading out to a remote firebase. My new companion has his boonie hat on, it looked like Gilligan’s hat from Gilligan’s Island. “Santa Clara” was printed on the side of his hat. I pointed to it and said, “I’m from Santa Clara!” We started to talk and when I asked his name he said, “My name is Mark Stefani.” Mark went to Santa Clara High while I went to his rival school Buchser High but I soon realized we had catechism together at St Justins when we were in junior high school. He was being sent to his firebase to work on Artillery while I was going to the jungle to do Infantry. We were never to cross paths again, but the story continues….
Over thirty years go by and I am now working at Lucky Stores. A co-worker watched a telecast about Vietnam the night before and asks me a question about the war. A customer walking by heard the question and before I could answer, she said, “My husband was there and he said that was true.” I then told her my story about the soldier I met on the helicopter. When I ended the story, she exclaimed, “That was my husband!” I asked her if he was okay, but she sadly said that he had passed away from the effects of the war.
A few weeks go by and my niece Marjorie is shopping at Lucky’s with her daughter Leanna. Leanna’s jaw dropped. I said, “Weird huh?” She looked totally surprised and responded, “You don’t understand, Uncle Larry. That was my best friend’s Dad!” Santa Clara has always felt like a small town but it has continued to reach out in many ways.