TULSA, OK (KJRH) — "Mr. Than," were the first words spoken face-to-face between Lt. Col. Richard Meydag and H.T. Than in 44 years.
As a young boy, Than was forced to escape Vietnam at the end of the war. Friday afternoon, he was reunited with the pilot who flew him to safety. Their bond, however, doesn't end there.
"How do you do? It's a little emotional isn't it?" Meydag asked, as they both teared up. "I'm choked up here."
Than and his family were escaping Saigon the day before the North Vietnamese would enter the city. Meydag was flying the second-to-last helicopter out, with Than's family on board.
"This man flew over 1000 missions," Than said, "and he remembers that one in Vietnam."
The two ended up on the same ship out - the U.S.S. John Hancock. After Than moved to Tulsa where the community adopted his family, he ended up at Meydag's alma mater: Will Rogers High School, where earlier that day Meydag was inducted into the school's hall of fame.
"It's amazing," the retired Marine said, "you know you did something, and you want to see the result out of it, and you are that result," gesturing to Than. "And you even went to the same high school I went to; that was the amazing part."
Hardly able to speak English, H.T. arrived in Tulsa, having to start life over from scratch.
"The first Thanksgiving was the most poignant," Than remembers, "because my mother somehow got the idea of Thanksgiving. She sat us down and said, 'this is not the house we're used to, but it's safe. It's dry. No one is shooting at us. None of us died, none of us were even wounded.' And that's incredible."
After finally getting the chance to say thank-you again, Than and Meydag agreed their reunion would be the beginning of a meaningful friendship.
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