Lloyd Cates of Smithville, Texas, knew his wounded friend Frank "Ski" Cybulski lived in the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck, a longtime enclave of Polish immigrants.
"Of course there are a lot of '-skis' in Hamtramck," Cates told the Detroit News.
But with the assistance of a Facebook group called "I grew up in Hamtramck before 1985," Cates was able to reach out to Cybulski's ex-wife, who relayed a message to him.
The News said the contact stunned Cybulski at first and it took for the former sergeant a few weeks to respond to Cates. It also took him about 10 minutes to muster up the nerve to open the package containing the knife his parents had given him and that Cates had kept polished and sharpened for more than 40 years.
"My grandson just turned 2-years-old, and it's very important to me to walk that wall (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) and touch it with him," Cybulski, who now lives in Roseville, Mich., told the News. "I want to place that knife at the wall in Washington and leave it there."
For Cates, returning "Ski's" knife was a symbol of tying up loose ends. "That was one of the most difficult things about being in Vietnam," Cates said. "You got close to people and when you put them on that helicopter, you never heard from them again."