Editor's note: Above video features veterans returning home from an Inland Northwest Honor Flight trip
SPOKANE, Wash. – Two veterans spent nearly 50 years apart before they reunited in the Spokane area but their bond forged through service stills run deep.
Jim Everman and Jim Marling first met in 1969 while serving as survival instructors with the United States Air Force.
Everman said he and Marling, among others, taught survival skills and evasion tactics to air crew members headed to Vietnam.
“It was really a good experience. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it at the time how good a time I was having,” Everman said of his fifteen-month tour in the area.
When asked about his favorite part of his job as a survival instructor, Everman had a simple answer: everything.
“The best part about being a survival instructor is being out in the woods or in the jungle with your students. It’s an experience that’s really different from most Air Force jobs or military jobs,” he said.
Another perk of the job was the close friendships Everman made along the way – including his relationship with Jim Marling and two other men.
“It was a good friendship to me,” he said of his relationship with Marling in particular. “To me, it was a heartfelt friendship – something inside of me that I could not even come close to describing to you.”
Everman first spoke with Marling briefly about three years ago during a monthly breakfast for survival instructors at Longhorn Barbecue in Airway Heights. The two had been apart since 1971.
Then, the two reconnected again at a USAF Survival School Reunion about two weeks ago catered by Longhorn Barbecue at Clear Lake.
“It was terrific and it was fabulous. It just made my heart full. It was a remarkable day, absolutely wonderful,” Everman told Longhorn Barbecue after the event.
Everman said the two friends relived their days together in the Philippines while at the reunion. Marling event brought a photo of the two of them taken during their time overseas.
He said Marling developed the film after it had remained unprocessed for more nearly five decades.
“You can see to the left of us and the right of us there’s wall and there’s a building behind us. The building behind us was our shower house and the building to the right of us was our hooch [house] where we lived,” Everman said as he described the photo.
Marling was not the only friend Everman reconnected with at the reunion. He spoke with several other friends that he had not seen since 1971 who live as close as Pullman and as far away as Florida.
“It brought back so many nice memories,” he added.
One lesson Everman learned from the reunion: Keeping in contact with friends is important. He has already spoken with some of them again since their latest reunion.
“For me, it’s quite sad that I haven’t kept up. I think I will be more diligent about it,” he said. “Friendship is important and I think last week at the survival reunion has shown me the importance of keeping in contact. I was so happy to see all three of them.”
Everman said technology like Facebook and email makes it easier to chat with the important people in his life.