WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Vietnam veteran, pronounced dead three times in a combat zone in 1968, came face to face this week at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with the man who miraculously saved his life.
Gil Hernandez, 63, of Elko, Nev., knew he died twice, but he didn’t learn until last September that another Marine was responsible for giving him the medical care that revived him 43 years ago.
Charles “Graves” Roth, 62, of Collingdale, and Hernandez arranged to meet in March at The Wall in D.C. for a reunion.
“I saw him three times when he was dead, but he never saw me,” Roth said, noting the pair had spoken on the phone and exchanged letters after learning in September that Hernandez was alive.
Forty-nine people, primarily members of Darby VFW Post 598 and Upper Darby Marine Corps League Detachment 884, and family members, accompanied Roth on a bus for the reunion.
“I’d spoken to (Hernandez) a few times on the phone and wrote him a letter,” Roth said. “I invited 49 people because I wanted to give Gil a welcome home. The meeting at the Vietnam Wall was something that needed to be shared.
“Normally, I try to make it down (to The Wall) in February to acknowledge the Tet Offensive and my best friend, Robert L. Stanek, at panel 37E, line 28. I didn’t want to talk to Gil at any other place.
“This time, it was more about wanting it to be a good day for many of the Vietnam vets who have never been to the Wall.”
At The Wall, Hernandez and Roth greeted each other and hugged.
Hernandez removed his jacket and said, “I just wanted you to see I’m in pretty good shape. It’s amazing it’s taken us this long to meet and that both of us are still alive. It’s God’s will. I’m one of those that came back alive. I had a death certificate. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for ‘Graves.’”