Marines from Vietnam era reconnect in surprise reunion more than 50 years later

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 It must have seemed like a lifetime ago that two young men found themselves thrust into a world very different to the one they had known. A world that bonded them in a way they never expected and in a way that would remain with them forever. One of these men was Joe Bolin, of Moultrie, Ga. who recounts that time all those years ago.

“Three score & 11.5 years ago I first arrived at MCRD PISC (Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC) where a nice DI (drill instructor) welcomed us to his island and invited us off the bus to please stand on the yellow footprints — in his own vocal way! As I stood there shocked at the cruel joke I had played on myself, little did I know that I was in for the most life-changing experience of my young life. I was being introduced to the world’s largest, strongest family of brothers, the United States Marines,” Bolin said, going on to talk of a special connection he made with one particular fellow Marine. “I bonded with my bunkmate and friend, Leland Stanford Cox III.”

Photo of Marine Stan Cox that fellow Marine Joe Bolin kept with him for more than 50 years. Contributed photo

Bolin and Cox (known in local circles as Walton County attorney Stan Cox) said their goodbyes at the end of the training as they boarded the bus for deployment to Vietnam. Cox gave Bolin a photograph of himself to keep and they went their separate ways. Cox went on to become a captain in the Marines before returning stateside and settling down in Walton County to practice law.

“I‘ve thought of Stan many times over the years and decided, last year, 50 years was long enough and wrote my friend a long overdue, loving letter,” Bolin said. “Months passed and I thought, sadly, my friend had forgotten me and moved on with life. I had kept up with Stan and knew he was a lawyer, still in Georgia, and was, by all appearances, successful.”

What Bolin didn’t know at that time was that his fellow Marine wanted very much to respond, but just didn’t know what to say. He shared the letter with the two legal secretaries in his office, Brittany Harper Adcock and Wendy Cantrell Fields. 

“Stan read his letter multiple times and would write back but could not find the right words to say to him,” Adcock said. “He would sit down and dictate a letter for us ladies in the office to type up to send back to Mr. Bolin, but he never could find the right words. We would write a few sentences, reread the letter his friend sent, tell old Vietnam stories then brush it to the side… and repeat.”

Adcock said this had gone on for months. So they decided to do something about it and a surprise reunion was set in motion. The letter had the contact information they needed and they phoned Bolin and asked him if he would be prepared to travel to Walton County and surprise Cox for his 75th birthday. An emotional Bolin told them he wouldn’t miss it for the world.

“Last Friday, Mr. Bolin and his wife, Sue Bolin, drove three or more hours from south Georgia to meet Stan after 51.5 years.” Below is a video of the surprise, and emotional, reunion.

 “What a day it was,” Bolin said. “Thanks to Wendy and Brittany for making it happen. We were both blessed and pleased with you. I’ve known a lot of lawyers, but never met one with such a loyal, loving staff.”
Legal secretaries Wendy Cantrell and Brittany Adcock with reunited Marines Stan Cox and Joe Bolin. Contributed photo.

Adcock said Cox did not have to say anything at all. The look on his face said it all.

“Stan Cox’s is a great man. The best man I have ever met.. he didn’t have to thank us or say anything. We could see it in his face that he was more than surprised and thankful,” she said. “Two young men who went under oath to serve the United State of America and fought one hell of a fight in Vietnam. They said their goodbyes at boot camp and risked their own lives for our freedom…and finally got to rekindle a brotherhood that will never be broken. Once a Marine always a Marine.”
From left: Reunited after more than 50 years, Marines Stan Cox and Joe Bolin. Contributed photo

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