North Tonawanda Vietnam veteran says goodbye to war friend 52 years later

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A Vietnam veteran is getting the chance to say a proper goodbye to a close friend, more than 50 years after he died.

It was all possible because of his son, who wanted to help bring his dad some closure and the North Tonawada man got a lot more than just closure.

Paul Schultz served in the Vietnam war during 1965 and 1966.

“I never discussed Vietnam for 52 years, yes I acknowledge that I served there but I just didn’t open up,” said Paul.

He never talked about it because he felt guilty.

Paull fell ill with dysentery and had to stay back from a battle.

His best friend Jim Prommersberger took his place.

Vietnam soldiers shot Jim in the head.

“To this day, I still have a great deal of remorse of how come him and not me or it should’ve been me instead of him,” said Paul.

Paul has carried the weight of Jim’s death ever since the day he packed up his things and sent them home to Jim’s wife in Ohio.

“He was a little guy – but he had a heart of gold… Jim stepped up to the plate and I know that’s more of a cliché that goes on now, but he was eager to take my place. And I am eternally grateful for that,” said Paul.

We asked Paul if he thought he wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Jim.

“Without a doubt, without a doubt,” he said.

Paul never got to say goodbye.

Little did he know, he would get to bid farewell 52 years later.

With the help of social media, Paul’s son found a connection on Facebook through a man named Jack, which led him to Jim’s son Krissy.

“Jack kid was one of my dad’s best friends in high school so he got ahold of Jack. Jack got ahold of me and said Krissy you need to sit down and he told me this gentleman was trying to reach us – a family member and right away I called Aaron back. And Aaron said he had not discussed this with his father yet and if his father agreed, would I be willing to talk to him?” said Krissy O’Neill.

As you can imagine, the reunion was emotional.

“As soon as he got out of his car, we were both filled with emotions – tear filled eyes and we hugged and we hugged for a long time and we cried. And from that day on I just felt like a little piece of my father was with me,” said Krissy.

“They were so eager and welcomed us with such open arms it was astounding. They were just eager to hear any story about Jim because they had not heard anything in 52 years,” said Paul.

For the first time in more than half a century, Paul went to Jim’s gravesite to bid his war friend farewell.

“I never had that opportunity to do it before.” Me: “What did it feel like?” Paul: “It was hard. It was hard… he was my buddy. It was very emotional when someone takes your place and he loses his life. I should’ve been there. I couldn’t get there,” said Paul.

He was able to say goodbye to his friend and part of his guilt that has weighed heavy on him for so many years.

“Paul has found forgiveness. I don’t know if he thought we would have hard feelings – we never did. He’s like a second dad to me now,” said Krissy.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride this past year and Krissy and I – I just think she’s my unadopted daughter,” said Paul.

A reunion years in the making, all thanks to a dedicated son looking to help his father heal and the power of social media.

“I love Paul. Paul has become a father to me. The connection was instant and it’s just been a beautiful journey,” said Krissy.

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