When The War Went Away

John Stiles, Dan Cherry and Nguyen Hong My, who all fought in the Vietnam War, and are now friends.
How do you make a story that already was as good as it gets even better?

If you don't remember from last week, Nguyen Hong My and Dan Cherry are long lost enemies, reports CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman.

They first tried to kill each other 37 years ago in the skies over Vietnam. The History Chanel aired a recreation of their epic dog fight. Dan was piloting the American F-4, Hong My was flying the North Vietnamese MiG, emphasis on was. Dan blew it out from under him.

As you might imagine, it's hard to make up after that kind of fight. But a few years ago the two men were reunited on a Vietnamese TV show. Jerry Springer would have been sorely disappointed.

"He had a very firm handshake," Dan said. "And he says to me, 'Welcome to my country. I'm glad to see that you're in good health. And I hope that we can be friends.'"

And those weren't just words. After the show, Hong My invited Dan back to his home. Dan held his grandson, and the War went away.

Today the men are best friends. Just a few weeks ago, Hong My came to visit Dan at his home in Bowling Green, Ky. The trip was mostly pleasure, but the men hope it would also serve a more serious purpose. In fact, our first story ended with that message.

"We hope the fact that we can put this war behind us and we can reconcile our differences and develop a friendship might help Vietnam veterans on both sides," Dan said.

Although Hartman didn't know it at the time of their interview, Dan and Hong My actually had one particular veteran in mind, someone they thought they could especially help.

For the last 37 years, John Stiles has been trying to forget Vietnam. He said his case of photos is hidden up in his attic for a reason.

"It brings back uncomfortable memories," John said.

In January of 1972, John was flying reconnaissance missions when his plane was shot down. He always thought it was ground flak that got him, but Hong My had evidence to the contrary, including a round, red medal presented to Hong My by Ho Chi Mihn himself.

"That means that he had shot somebody down," John said.

"And that was you?"

John shook his head yes.

Understandably, John wasn't sure if he wanted to meet Hong My. He was nervous he wouldn't know what to say. Although, in the end, he didn't have to say anything. The two men just looked at each other, until finally, once again, the War went away.

"I felt this huge release of weight that I don't have to carry around anymore," John said. "It's gone. It was wonderful - just absolutely wonderful."

Over the next few hours, they talked about planes, toasted their grandchildren, and showed War for what it often is, a disagreement between friends who just haven't had a chance to meet yet.