From Mortal Enemies to Facebook Friends - From Newsweek, By Katya Cengel / November 6, 2013
"It's a war story, but the primary message is one of forgiveness and reconciliation," says Cherry, a 74-year-old retired Air Force Brigadier General. It is a story told in images in John Fleck's photography book, The Unlikely Reunions: a Story of Reconciliation from the Vietnam War, an updating of an earlier, privately printed book that is scheduled for release Veterans Day.
There you can see Cherry holding Hong My's first grandson, one-year-old Hong Duc. Cherry on the back of Hong My's scooter, his arms wrapped around Hong My's waist. A few pages later there is another shot of them together: the slight American in khakis wearing a button-down and the bald and buff Vietnamese man with multiple gold chains. The same man whose military career Cherry ended more than four decades earlier when he shot down Vietnam Air Force Lieutenant Hong My's MiG-21 in 1972. Hong My survived, but both his hands were broken and his back severely injured in the crash.
Their dogfight lasted almost five minutes, about four minutes longer than the average encounter - an eternity. Later, Cherry's comrades toasted him with whiskey and champagne. But in the back of his mind he thought about the pilot he saw parachuting toward the ground: Who was he? What happened? Did he survive?
It wasn't until 2008 that Cherry found his answers when he met Hong My on the set of a Vietnamese television show that specializes in reuniting people. Hong My also had questions and asked Cherry to help him find the man Hong My shot down several months before his own downing, and they did.
The trio now regularly reunite in the U.S.; they visit war memorials together, speak at air shows and hang out in Cherry's Kentucky home and Stiles' place in North Carolina. Last year Hong My sent Stiles a friend request on Facebook. Stiles accepted immediately.