SEWELL, NJ (WTXF) It’s been said that military friendships are a special kind of bond. Ernie Megali and Leon Lipiecki, both 87-years-old, were reunited at the Veterans Day luncheon at Kennedy Health Care Center.
They were initially brought together by duty back in 1946, but are now reunited in friendship—with half a century of catching up to do.
In late 1945 into early 1946 World War II had just ended, but the call of duty remained.
Ernie Megali, of South Philly, and Leon Lipiecki, of Port Richmond, were complete strangers when they enlisted. But that would soon change.
"We met at the Navy enlistment center the same day,” the two men explained.
They soon after were reunited at the Great Lakes Naval training center in Illinois for 12 weeks of basic training. During their reunion, they spoke of fond memories of training and the service.
"A lot of [the stories] can't be told!" Megali joked.
"Even if you didn't know how to swim, they threw you,” Lipiecki said of his time at “basic.”
Unfortunately, then the two went their separate ways.
Leon served aboard the Battleship USS Missouri. Megali was assigned to a pair of destroyers.
Over the years, the two drifted apart.
Then, decades later, Megali, a resident at Kennedy Health Care Center, saw the room nameplate of Lipiecki’s wife, Rita.
Recognizing the Rita’s last name, Megali introduced himself to Lipiecki’s wife and the two men reconnected. A long, dormant friendship was rekindled.
"I was glad to see him.,” Lipiecki said. “After all these years, you know...it's like...I don't know how to explain it."
After all these years, there are certain subjects Leon and Ernie do not discuss—the military, for one.
"Makes you cry,” Megali said. “Tears come out of your eyes. You don't talk about it. You leave it alone."
But there are plenty of other things to talk about such as the bond created by that service.
"You look for his back, and he looks for your back,” Megali said.