(Video above: The incredible story of how an Alabama man left his racist past behind during the Vietnam War)
A call into the Paul Finebaum Show from 2008 resurfaced this past week and is well worth revisiting.
“Jay in Huntsville” explained to Finebaum that he “grew up in Alabama and was raised a racist.” His father was in the KKK, as were all his uncles, and he was proud of it.
But in a decision that would end up changing his life in countless ways, Jay joined the Marine Corps in 1967 and ended up in Vietnam alongside a fellow Marine who he described as the “most militant acting and talking black person that was ever on the face of the Earth.”
They “tried to kill each other for the next couple of weeks, about every day,” until a Gunnery Sergeant took them aside and told them “next time that happens, you’re going home on a bad-conduct discharge.”
They decided to put aside their differences for the time being, in spite of the strong animosity they continued to feel toward each other.
But once they ended up in a fox hole together in the jungle of Vietnam and the bullets started flying, things would never be the same.
“Over the next two years, he saved my life a couple of times and I saved his life a couple of times,” Jay explained. “And didn’t neither one of us want to leave Vietnam… but in ’69, we both had to leave.”
Jay moved back to Alabama to go to school and his newfound “well, I guess you could call us ‘friends'” moved to Detroit.
They kept in touch over the next several years as Jay earned his engineering degree in Tuscaloosa. But things weren’t going quite as well for his buddy in Detroit, so Jay invited him down to Alabama to work under him at the company where he’d landed a job after graduation.
His friend went on to get his degree from UA, but the story gets even better.
“He decided he wanted to outdo me, which he always did, and he went on and got his Master’s degree,” Jay explained, “so I wound up working for him.”
And then the bombshell:
“And 32 years ago come April 3rd of this year… I will have been married to his sister for 32 years,” Jay said, stunning Finebaum. “He was the best man in my wedding. We had two sons a piece. All four of them graduated from the University of Alabama.”
And four decades after they met each other in a war zone on the other side of the planet with hatred in their hearts, they’re best friends and live on the same street.
“We’ve had a good life and he lives about 3 houses down now and we still try to lie as much as we can about our war exploits,” Jay laughed. “But it just goes to prove that anything can happen to a former racist… He turned out to be a lot better than I thought at first, and I hope I did, too.”
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— Cliff Sims (@Cliff_Sims) December 3, 2014