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Veterans reunited almost 30 years later

17-year-old reunites veterans
Sandra Valerio helped care for John Hord III
Posted at 7:56 AM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-07 12:09:58-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Two veterans who haven't spoken or seen each other in almost 30 years have been reunited thanks to a 17-year-old.

Both served in the Persian Gulf War and their service impacted the lives of both significantly. But it was an email three decades later that led their paths to cross once again.

It was through a Zoom call one Sunday that soldiers John Hord III of the U.S. Marine Corps and Sandra Valerio with the U.S. Air Force saw each other for the first time since 1991.

Both served during the Persian Gulf War almost 30 years ago. Valerio was a 21-year-old medical technician in the Air Force, stationed at Andrews Air Force Base when Hord, a 19-year-old Marine, showed up severely injured after stepping on a landmine.

"When I finally got to Andrews and you were one of the first people I met," Hord said. "I just felt like I was home and I could tell immediately that, I just knew you were not like any of the other people I had dealt with."

Hord had lost all but his big toe on one foot and shrapnel was scattered among his legs. As a med tech, Valerio was tasked with changing his dressing. They only spent 72 hours together, but it was the conversations they shared that left a lasting impression on both of them.

Hord remembers their conversations well.

"I remember looking at you and literally you looked like an angel," he said. "I mean the light behind you. And if this was it and I was going. I really thought I was in a good place and I was happy and your face was what I saw last."

"Dressing changes would take like 20 to 30 minutes and I remember it took like a couple of hours," Valerio said. "And so the next day somebody called me and said you need to get down here, he won't let anyone else change it."

The two laughed, cried and shared memories for several hours during a zoom call. But it was because of Hord's 17-year-old son Tanner Hord who made it possible.

"I just looked up my dad's name and I was looking through and we had never found this before, this transcript from Sandra," Tanner Hord said.

Sandra was interviewed about her experience through the "Veterans History Project" in 2011. And it was the transcripts from that interview, which can be found in the Library of Congress, that Tanner came across.

"He sent an email to my Del Mar College email address," Valerio said. "He found me that way. Usually I'm a little leery about reading emails that come from random people."

It was an email that has changed the lives of two families.

But for one of them, they will forever be grateful because of the actions of one Corpus Christi's local veterans.

Tanner had this message for Valerio: "Thank you for setting this up and thank you for being there for my dad. And thank you for showing the care to help him".

Sandra served in the Air Force from 1990 to 2000 and was awarded the National Service Medal and the Basic Training Ribbon for her time during Desert Storm.