Emotional reunion for Vietnam veterans at Mt. Soledad

Posted at 6:24 PM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-25 21:32:06-04

SAN DIEGO - Some friendships were renewed, and others were formed, because of a big reunion at Mt. Soledad on Thursday.

The group celebrated the 50th anniversary of the reactivation of 3rd Battalion 26th (3/26) Marines in 1966. The 5th Marine Division, after having fought at Iwo Jima, was deactivated after World War II.

It was Rudy Gomez's first reunion in 48 years. Back then, Gomez did not realize how much he would actually want those friends.

"I always heard, 'Don't make very good close friendships because you might not be here in the next minute,'" he explained.

They endured a lot.

Gomez recalled how foggy it was in Vietnam in 1968, but he still saw too much.

"A lot of fellow Marines falling down to the left and to the right of me," he said.

They were there as the North Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive, which was an absolute bloodbath.

"All of the sudden I see this explosion," Gomez explained.

Then he could not see out of his left eye.

Gomez was one of the lucky ones who made it out, but 391 Marines and Navy corpsmen died while serving with 3/26 during the period from 1966 to 1970.

The reunion was bittersweet, as Gomez and his new friends stood and saluted their sacrifice to the sound of Taps. Then, they honored their place in history with a new plaque at Mt. Soledad.