War Vet Gets his Knife Back, 40 years after being wounded by a Vietnamese Booby Trap.
Above Photo: Vet gets his Knife, er, Back (Detroit News)
I was interested a while back to read a news story in the Detroit News about a Vietnam Veteran, Frank Cybulski, 64, who was reunited with a hunting knife he lost more than 40 years ago when he was wounded in Vietnam, after a fellow soldier — Loyd Cates of Smithville, Texas — tracked him down and sent it back. This of course chimes with something in the plot of my Vietnam War/backpacker crossver novel, BACK.
“I just stared at the box for like 10 minutes,” Cybulski told the paper. “I opened it up and pulled the knife out. That’s when I started crying.”
Cybulski was a 20-year-old sergeant with the 199th Infantry Brigade when he was caught in the explosion of a mine detonated by Vietnamese soldiers in January 1970. He was thrown to the ground and badly burned.
“The only thing I remember is a gigantic orange ball in my face,” he said. “It’s like looking at the sun and then you look away, and you can still see it.”
Cates, who was just five yards to his left, was unharmed.
“I remember telling him he was okay and he was fine,” Cates recalled. “But, of course, that’s what you always say. He wasn’t okay and he wasn’t fine.”
Cybulski was airlifted to an American hospital in Long Binh, Vietnam, before he was sent home. Cates grabbed Cybulski’s dropped hunting knife, hoping to find a chance to give it back one day.
“That was one of the most difficult things about being in Vietnam,” Cates said. “You got close to people and when you put them on that helicopter, you never heard from them again.”
Cates returned home from the war a few months later, but avoided making the call to Cybulski. “You just try to put (the war) out of your mind,” he said.
But after more than four decades, Cates gathered the courage to finally make the call and Cybulski was finally reunited with his knife.
© Detroit News.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see:
Peter Alan Lloyd
BACK Parts 1 and 2:
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