Korean War veterans reunite after 63 years
By Anna-Claire Terry
“Ed, are you still alive?” were the words Edward Andrews heard from the other end of the phone when his old friend Jack Stewart gave him a call 63 years after they spent 16 months together in Germany during the Korean War.
“We were buddies overseas,” Andrews said.
Andrews, a New Jersey native had set out to find Stewart, a resident of Opelika since 1960, a few months before he received that phone call.
Stewart worked with the Auburn Fire Department for years, and it was through a local fire department that Andrews was able to find the path to Stewart. With the help of a firefighter who knew Stewart had once worked for the Auburn Fire Department, a letter Andrews had mailed to Stewart’s former address in Woodland, Ala., made its way to Stewart in Opelika after a month or two of circulating through cities like Wedowee and Roanoke.
“I think when people hear you’re trying to locate an old army buddy, they’re going to help you out. There’s a lot of good people in this world,” Andrews said.
Andrews said he had tried to contact Stewart once before when he traveled to Florida for a family vacation but had no luck. He was only able to get in touch with other members of Stewart’s family who were not able to contact him.
“Somehow, I found his sister-in-law. Maybe she thought I was a bill collector looking for him,” Andrews joked.
Years rolled by, and Andrews decided he should try to find Stewart again.
“Something hit me, and it said ‘Look for Jack again,’” Andrews said.
And that was how they reconnected.
“That was October of last year, and I’ve counted the days since then,” Stewart said.
A letter and phone call sparked a train ride from New Jersey to Alabama, where the Andrews stayed with the Stewarts for three days.
According to Stewart, he and Andrews have talked on the phone at least once a week since October.
Carol Andrews, Edward’s wife, said her first reaction to her husband finding his long lost friend was, “We have to go see them!”
Ed said he was anxious about what Stewart’s reaction would be to him coming out of the woodwork after all these years.
“I was thrilled to death,” Stewart said.
Stewart and Andrews agreed that the reunion was very emotional, and both admitted to shedding a tear or two.
Upon their arrival, the Andrews attended a gathering where they met the rest of Stewart’s family.
Sandra Page, Stewart’s stepdaughter, said even though the Stewarts had never met the Andrews,’ they still felt like family.
“You don’t see many folks who served 64 years ago and then reunite,” Page said.
Page also said Stewart had told stories of being in the service before, but he never told them quite like Andrews did.
“If they’re this comical now, I can only imagine what they were like back then,” she said.
Helen Stewart, Jack’s wife, said she was a little nervous when she heard the Andrews were coming down to stay a few days.
“I knew as soon as I met them that we would all have fun,” Helen said.
While in Opelika, the Andrews have experienced Auburn University and the Golden Corral for the first time.
Stewart and Andrews spent the three days telling tales about being in the service.
“We still try to out-lie each other,” Andrews said.
Stewart and Andrews were medic occupation troops in the Army. They said they were very lucky to have been stationed in Germany instead of Korea.
“I got there, shook hands and said hi to Jack and met the rest of the guys – and Jack and I just more or less hung together after that,” Andrews said.
The two soldiers had a lot of time to get to know each other while they were on maneuvers or traveling through the woods.
Andrews laughed about being a PFC who hung out with the corporal (Stewart) and jokingly said that since Stewart was being paid more, he thought he would hang with him and get a little extra spending money.
“We were very close,” Stewart said.
Andrews described Stewart as a big brother.
“And he still is a brother,” Stewart added.
“We trusted each other right from the start. That was the main thing,” Andrews said. “We used to go take a shower and throw our wallet on the bed and not worry about anything going missing.”
The 86-and 85-year-old men said each other acts just the same as they always remembered, and not much has changed.
“We changed in the way that if I had walked past Jack in Winn Dixie, I wouldn’t have known it was him, and he probably wouldn’t have known it was me,” Andrews said.
“We got a little younger,” Stewart added with a laugh.
Stewart said after the three days it feels like Andrews has been here the whole time.
“We were kids in our 20s then, and we’re kids in our 80s now,” Andrews said.
According to Andrews, he plans to make the trip to Alabama again if everyone is feeling “alive and healthy.” Stewart said he would like to do the same thing as soon as next year.
“Something like this is something you cherish for life,” Stewart said.