A reunion four decades later
Sander reunites with friend, fellow veteran after 39 years
Published: Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
Their brows carry more wrinkles. Their hair is thinner and grayer.
But as Tim Sander and Delfino Rodriguez sit side by side on Sander’s couch and look through a photo album containing a variety of photos of themselves together in the early 1970s, if only for a moment, they are 22 again.
Sitting on that couch on the Sander Ranch east of Custer, the men are together for the first time in 39 years. Rodriguez was Sander’s best man at his wedding. The two served together in the U.S. Marine Corps, having both served in Vietnam. After being discharged from the Marines, the two took a 40-day road trip across the country; a last “hurrah” of sorts before they settled down.
As they thumb through the book and share laughs and memories, one would never guess that a few weeks prior to the get- together, they hadn’t spoken since 1974. As time aged the men and helped them to drift apart, it couldn’t break their bond. For the bond, there was no graying or thinning. It is as strong as ever.
To understand Rodriguez and Sander’s present, one must first understand their past.
The two met in 1972 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., as U.S. Marines who were both nearing the end of their enlistments. At the time, Sander, now 63, was 22. Delfino, now 62, was 21. They knew each other as casual acquaintances, but their bond was about to grow stronger—oddly enough with the help of a broken neck.
One day the two were accompanied by two other young Marines in a car that Delfino was driving. Sander sat in the front passenger seat. The drive ended in a crumpled car that put both Delfino and Sander in the hospital. Sander suffered a broken neck and was in traction for nine weeks.
“We were side-by-side in the same hospital,”âï¿½ï¿½Delfino recalls.
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