Army buddies from New Jersey reunited after 66 years

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PATERSON -

Two veterans from New Jersey who struck up a close friendship in the Army were reunited Tuesday for the first time in more than six decades.

Pete Fleming and John LaRaia met at Fort Bliss, Texas, in 1952 for basic training and soon became fast friends. Fleming was then sent to Korea and LaRaia to Germany and they fell out of touch.

Both men later became police officers, Fleming in Paterson and LaRaia in Englewood Cliffs, only about 30 minutes apart from each other.

And then, after 66 years…

“I heard somebody saying 'Billy LaRaia' and I said, ‘his name is LaRaia?’ I said, 'Let me show you something.’ I showed them this picture [of LaRaia and me],” Fleming says.

It turned out that LaRaia’s son Bill and Fleming have a mutual friend. They soon made plans for a reunion.

LaRaia brought a scrapbook filled with pictures from training to reminisce. Both men are now 86 years old and say that they are grateful for the chance for an old friendship to be new again.

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