Sometimes life gets in the way and you lose track of old friend.
That was the case for 2 Vietnam Navy veterans who shared a bunk bed for 4 years. At the end of their tour in 1971, Steve Economus and Bill Wade's assignments changed locations and the two lost track of each other.
"My daughter found him on Facebook. He was an hour from here in Vallejo." Wade said. The old bunk mates met reunited on Veterans Day and picked up right where they left off 41 years ago.
The friends met at a temporary barracks in 1966. They were supposed to board the USS Oriskany, but a jet crashed into the ship.
"He said I am on the bottom you can have the top. We were friends from then on." Economus said.
The bunk mates eventually did board the Oriskany and ended up in the Philippines. Wade was good with money and took advantage of sailors who needed fast cash when they got leave from the ship.
"I started a loan agency. I was even giving money to officers and charging them 100% interest." Wade said.
Economus acted as the bill collector but the business ended after the captain found out about the high rates. Wade says he did make a nice profit before it ended and was able to put down $30,000 on a house. "
When the friends weren't hustling money. The worked in the under belly of the Oriskany's engine room.
"It was bad," Economus said. "We were surrounded by an envelope of lead paint and asbestos and a a lot more."
The safety standards were much different back then. In 2006 the U.S. government sunk the Oriskany to make an artificial reef in Florida. Bill says the toxins were sent to a watery grave, but he and much of the crew were left with the long term effects.
Both Wade and Economus have experienced severe health problem in recent years. Bill lost half of his brain to a tumor. He also lost most of his savings due to medical bills.
"I am glad we talked," Economu said. "I want to help you get the benefits you deserve."
A few years ago Economus had a stroke and learned how to get the most out of Veteran Service benefits. He says it saved his life and bank account. Today he helps other veterans who get confused about benefits entitled to them.
"We need to get the word out about these benefits and we need people to give guidance about the VA. If anything can be said on veterans day this is it." Economus said.
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