War Vet Gets his Knife Back, 40 years after being wounded by a Vietnamese Booby Trap.

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)

Only readers of BACK will fully appreciate why I’m posting this rather quirky news story about a Vietnam Vet being reunited with a possession he lost in Vietnam – his combat knife. A knife left behind during the Vietnam War is highly relevant to the plot of my backpacker/Vietnam War crossover novel, BACK.

Frank Cybulski, 64, from Detroit, was recently reunited with a hunting knife he lost more than 40 years ago when he was wounded in the Vietnam War, after a fellow soldier — Loyd Cates of Smithville, Texas — tracked him down and sent it back, the Detroit News reported.

“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.

Viet Cong mines discovered at a jungle hideout during the Vietnam War (Craig Schoonderwoerd)

Viet Cong mines discovered at a jungle hideout during the Vietnam War (Craig Schoonderwoerd, 212warriors.com)

“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.

Frank Cybulski (right) of Detroit, holds his old hunting knife that he left in Vietnam after being injured in January 1970. Bill Deskins (left) helped in the effort to return the knife to Cybulski from his fellow soldier, Loyd Cates of Smithville, Texas, who kept the knife for more than 40 years.

Frank Cybulski (right) of Detroit, holds his old hunting knife that he left in Vietnam after being injured in January 1970. Bill Deskins (left) helped in the effort to return the knife to Cybulski from his fellow soldier, Loyd Cates of Smithville, Texas, who kept the knife for more than 40 years. (Detroit News)

But after more than four decades, Cates gathered the courage to finally make the call and Cybulski was finally reunited with his knife.

For POWs left behind in Laos, see:

Peter Alan Lloyd

BACK Parts 1 and 2:

Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews 

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US: Amazon: Back Parts 1 and 2

Smashwords: Back Parts 1 and 2

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