SALEM — They were Army infantry soldiers — grunts — who last saw each other 43 years ago in Vietnam.
They were kids assigned to the same company who became close friends during a war, a bond formed over the oddest connection. They both wore dental retainers.
Jeff Motyka was a radio telephone operator in Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry.
Marc Levy, whom everyone called “Doc,” was a decorated medic in the same company.
They last saw each other on April 23, 1970, the night Motyka was wounded in a mortar attack. Levy had just helped a wounded soldier into an underground bunker being used as an aid station. That’s when he looked up and saw his injured friend being lugged in by two soldiers.
“Jeff,” Levy said.
“Doc,” Motyka replied before passing out.
The RTO was sent home to a hospital in Washington, D.C. The medic mailed a letter and the paperwork for Motyka’s Bronze Star citation, but it took months to arrive. They made attempts to communicate over the years but couldn’t find each other, so they went on with their lives.
Until a few months ago, when a postcard arrived at Motyka’s home in Nashville, Tenn. It was from “Doc,” who moved to Salem a few years ago and found his friend on the Internet. Motyka recognized the handwriting right away. It was the same handwriting on the letter he kept all these years, the one with smudges of red clay.
This week, they reunited in Salem. Motyka flew up and got a room at the Hawthorne Hotel. When they saw each other for the first time, four decades just melted away.
“It wasn’t a handshake,” Motyka said. “It was a hug, and there were tears.”
They are celebrating the life of Vinnie Furfaro tomorrow at a 9 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Conception Church.