Marines Reunite After 50 Years

TARENTUM, Pa. (Tribune News Service) — This is a story about how friends become family.

For some, June 1967 was the start of the Summer of Love, a time when more than 100,000 gathered in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to follow Timothy Leary’s directions and “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

For others, that June came to be known as the start of the “long hot summer,” when 159 riots centered around the civil rights movement broke out across the country, landing over 11,000 people in jail and resulting in the deaths of over 75 people.

For the nearly 3.4 million military men and women on active duty, the summer of 1967 was and could be only one thing: the height of the Vietnam War.

But for five young men from the Alle-Kiski Valley, that summer was the start of a lifelong, unbreakable bond of friendship.

One for all, all for one
Dave Hertz was 18, and it was the summer after high school.

He was walking down Corbet Street in Tarentum on an otherwise normal day. Four of his friends drove by on their way to New Kensington.

“They saw me and said, ‘Hey, you want to go with us?’ I asked where they were going and they said, ‘We’re going to join the Marine Corps.’ I got in the car and went with them,” Hertz said.

In that car were two cousins, Jerry and Len Valenti, now 68 and 67, respectively, Larry Struhar, 67, and Ted Slavin, 69.

Jerry Valenti, had wanted to join the service a year earlier when he graduated from Har-Brack High School in 1966. But his cousin Len was only 16 so he couldn’t sign up with him. He waited for one more year.

“Me and him were going, regardless,” Jerry Valenti said.

When the time came they picked up Struhar, who had convinced Slavin to come along.

Once Hertz jumped in the car, the five were off to the recruiter.

“I don’t even think I thought about it,” Hertz said.

All five just wanted one thing: to fight for their country.

The five spent the rest of the summer waiting for that moment, on Aug. 22, when they were to report for duty.

“The recruiter, he took us to the airport and we were gone,” Jerry Valenti said.

To read the rest of their story on Stars and Stripes, click here.