PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Vietnam veteran from Bucks County had a chance reunion, 47 years in the making, after he received a message out of the blue from someone from his past. Their connection stems from a special place in Vietnam that impacted both of their lives.
In 1969, Bob Staranowicz was a 21-year-old Fishtown boy, when he was shipped off to Vietnam, a country in the perils of war.
One day, a fellow soldier asked him to tag along on a laundry drop-off at an orphanage in Hue. For Bob, it became a frequent refuge in the middle of a war zone.
“We would go, we would play with the kids,” he said. “We would take toys, send home for toys and candy and take things to the orphanage.”
Years after coming home, the Kim Long orphanage and its children remained in his heart. Never did he imagine 47 years later, one of those children would find him in America via Facebook.
“I wasn’t expecting anything,” said Laura Satira, the woman who sent Bob the message. “I just thought, I’m just going to message him over and see what happens.”
For Satira, a war orphan, Kim Long was home, though not for long. She was adopted and raised in Brooklyn with two younger brothers in a loving, Italian family.
“Growing up, it was definitely different for me,” she said. “I was this Vietnamese kid in a very white world, but my parents always made my story extremely special.”
Satira never felt the need to look into her roots, until she had to do research for a speech. A quick search on the orphanage led her straight to Bob and his continuing humanitarian work there. Laura soon discovered Bob was at Kim Long the same time she was.
They decided they needed to meet. Again. This time, at Bob’s home in Buckingham Township, Bucks County a week before Veterans Day.
The story doesn’t end there. In 1970, Laura met someone else at the orphanage, Army Lieutenant Frank Congiusta.
“Laura was really cute,” Frank said. “She kind of knew how to get you to pick her up. As soon as you walked in the room, she’d [raise her arms]. So that was kind of how I got attached to her.”
With his wife’s blessing, the 22-year-old engineer adopted Laura and brought her home.
“My father is my hero, that’s all I could define him as,” Laura said.
“I think she chose me more than I chose her!” Frank said.
Three people, who once strangers in a country a world away, are now forever bonded by a place that changed each of their lives for the better.
“It’s always been my story. I mean, I’m grateful, I guess, but just after talking to you, I just kind of realized that it’s special,” Laura said. “A part of my past and has become such a blessing in my present. Forty-seven years later is when the doors are doing to start opening.”
Bob learned the orphanage reopened in the 90’s, after it was closed following the war. He was able to visit in 2009 and spearheads local fundraising efforts for Kim Long every year now.