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Selfless veteran has one hope: to find his long-lost friend

Joe Flores.jpg
Posted at 5:01 PM, Oct 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-14 19:18:29-04

Oscar Ortiz joined the U.S. Navy in 1963, and served until 1967.

During that time he met a lot of people, and made a lot of friends.

READ MORE: Navy veteran spending retirement serving neighbors

One friend he never forgot, though, was "Joe" Flores.

Ortiz and Flores were both South Texas boys.

"He was living in McAllen," Ortiz said.

Ortiz said he has been looking for Flores for more than 20 years.

"To get with him and talk about good times we had toegther," he said.

Ortiz and his wife, Lily, said they even tried taking Joe's picture to a TV station in Weslaco, so see if they could find him that way.

The TV station didn't end up airing the photo, but Ortiz has never stopped trying to find his running buddy.

He has cherished memories of Flores from places all over the world.

Ortiz tells a story about how the two young men were in a bar in Spain, when they came across a bartender who was also from McAllen, like Flores.

"So he told the rest of the guys ‘Sorry, but I’m gonna close,’ " Ortiz said. "He (found) out Joe was from McAllen, and I was (from) here, from Alice."

Oscar Ortiz 1.png

So Ortiz said he and Flores hung out with their new friend, singing and dancing. Ortiz said he treated them like kings.

They had such a great time that they decided to go back the next night; however, their new friend wasn't there.

Instead, the bar owner's boyfriend was.

"We said ‘Where is so-and-so?’" Ortiz said.

The answer was unexpected.

" 'Oh, I ran him off because he drank all the profit last night,' " Ortiz recalled the man saying, with a chuckle.

Their adventures took them to different ports, including Puerto Rico, where Ortiz said Flores was with him where he hit a hot streak in a local casino.

"I had green, red, yellow, orange – all different kinds of chips. A stack of them.

Oscar Ortiz yearbook.png

But that streak turned really cold, really fast.

"I pushed all the chips out to the middle of the table and I roll and it was a craps," he said.

He said he often wonders how much they lost that night, and admits that if he had it to do all over again, he would change one thing.

"We didn’t have money to pay the taxi to get back to the . . . we had to go borrow some money to pay a taxi," Ortiz said, laughing.

So if you see Joe Flores, tell him his buddy 'Ortiz' is looking for him.