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Vietnam War enemies become friends

Dan Cherry and Hong My Nguyen were once enemies, fighting on opposite sides of the Vietnam War. The men are now friends and met up Saturday at the Air America Association reunion in Raleigh.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Dan Cherry and Hong My Nguyen were once enemies, fighting on opposite sides of the Vietnam War.

“On April 16 of 1972, that's when we first met,” Cherry said.

Cherry was flying an American F-4 when he shot down a North Vietnamese MiG fighter, piloted by Nguyen.

“It was a very intense four-minute dog fight. Fortunately, I came out the victor on that one," Cherry said.

Cherry said after the war ended, he often wondered about the man he shot down over Vietnam.

"I wondered about what his name was and did he have a family?” he said.

It was that curiosity that led Cherry to find Nguyen. The two men reunited in 2008 on the Vietnamese television show, "The Separation Never Seems to Have Existed."

Nguyen said he was excited that day to meet the American pilot.

“I extended my hand and he (Nguyen) had a very firm handshake and he said, 'Welcome to my country. I'm glad to see that you are in good health. And I hope that we can be friends,'" Cherry recalled.

After the TV show, the men became friends. Nguyen even traveled to Bowling Green, Ky., to visit Cherry at his home.

Cherry soon learned Nguyen shot down an American plane in 1972. The weapons system officer on that plane was John Stiles from Goldsboro.

Cherry and Nguyen contacted Stiles and the men all met up in Washington, D.C.

“It was just like a huge Mack truck off my chest. I reached over and I grabbed his (Nguyen) hand and we had a moment together that is indescribable,” Stiles said.

The men are together again this weekend for the Air America Association reunion in Raleigh. Cherry and Nguyen spoke of their unusual friendship during a panel discussion Saturday at the North Raleigh Hilton.

“He says, 'You and I were never really enemies. We were just soldiers, just soldiers,'” Cherry recalled Nguyen's words to him.


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