WASHINGTON (KELO) — “It’s the best day of my life,” Army veteran Dave McFarland of Correctionville, Iowa said.
He was one of 83 veterans honored on Wednesday’s Midwest Honor Flight’s trip to Washington, D.C.
“On one side of it is my pins: 101st Airborne, the combat infantry badge and the 506th Infantry Regiment badge,” McFarland said, describing what was on his hat. “The other side is the American flag and my dad’s pin from World War II. He was in the Navy, and my grandfather’s pin from World War I.”
Both his dad and grandfather received Purple Hearts just like he did. McFarland was shot across his back in Vietnam in 1968 on November 11: Veteran’s Day.
“I couldn’t get low enough,” McFarland said. “It went zinging right across my back.”
Fast forward to the last day of May in 2023, when McFarland was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the Midwest Honor Flight trip.
“My daughter and I were visiting the three soldiers near the Vietnam wall,” McFarland said.
It’s an eye-catching statue, especially when the sun shines on it like it did Wednesday.
“I’m trying to take a picture of it, and this guy walks up to me and he says, ‘What have you been up to, you old dog?'” McFarland said. “I looked at him, and I said I didn’t recognize him. He said, I’m ‘Charlie Six Mike,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s where I was,” Charlie Six Mike. That’s our call sign on the radio.”
It was much more than a coincidence.
“I looked at him, I said, ‘Take your hat off, your sunglasses,'” McFarland said. “‘Who are you?'”
It was his best friend over in Vietnam, a man whom he hadn’t seen for nearly 54 years.
“‘I’m Bill Pepper,'” McFarland said. “And I, ‘Oh my God.'”
“That’s not quite what you said,” his daughter Julia Mason said.
Mason was McFarland’s guardian on the trip and the mastermind behind the reunion.
“So, I had reached out to Bill and said, ‘Hey Bill, would you mind writing my dad a letter ’cause he’s going to go on this amazing experience, and I just want you to be a part of it,'” Mason said. “And Bill’s response to me was, ‘I got one better for you- how about I meet you there.'”
So that’s exactly what happened.
“For months Bill and I have been texting and just making sure that we understood timelines, and that it was okay that he surprised him, made sure dad didn’t have a heart condition,” Mason said.
“I can’t explain it,” McFarland said. “It was just totally shock.”
“I think both their souls needed it,” Mason said.
“It’s all overwhelming,” McFarland said.
Now, another rendezvous is in the works. Pepper now lives in New Jersey.
“I’ve been saving a bottle of scotch for him for years, and we’re going to share that bottle one of these days,” McFarland said.