This Morning: A friendship formed during a fight for survival, Mason man saves life in Vietnam War


Today we’re continuing to observe Veteran’s Day. 

A time to honor the men and women who served our country.

Mike Bongart and Duane Garver started off as strangers.. but it’s the way they met and one heroic action that changed both of their lives forever.

They were brothers in combat, but now they’re rivals on the golf course.

With each swing, these two Veterans aim to honor a lifelong friendship.

One that started in war.

“It’s incredible that this guy was there and knew exactly what to do,” says Bongart.

On October 4th 1968, Duane Garver was a medic assigned to the 9th Infantry Division in the Vietnam War.

They tracked down ABC News footage that was taken that day.

Garver’s helicopter had been hit. 

He made his way to a nearby canal with enemy forces only 50 meters away.

“I was wounded minor. As I advanced along the canal I came across a man floating face down in the water,” says Garver.

That man was Mike Bongart.

“I heard this guy screaming at me, you gotta breathe you gotta breathe sir,” says Bongart.

Bongart was the helicopter’s aircraft commander.

He was hit by a morter, bleeding from the head.

“I was totally helpless at the time, my vision was completely blurred,” says Bongart.

His crew left him for dead but Garver, known now to Bongart as “Doc”, thought otherwise.

“He kept saying stay with me stay with me, I’ll get ya out I’ll get ya out,” says Bongart.

“I put him up against the dike and gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation,” says Garver.

Both men were taken to Dong Tam and were separated.

Bongart later learned Garver’s efforts saved his life.

Medical staff told him if it wasn’t for Garver, Bongart would have died within minutes.

“We were complete strangers.. and here is a guy that, in essence, came to my rescue. Leaving his company to rescue a foreigner,” says Bongart.

The two met again a few years later when Bongart sent Garver a letter thanking him for saving his life. 

“All this was done while we were in combat, while we were being fired at. Had he not done that I definitely wouldn’t be here,” says Bongart.

Now 50 years later, these war heroes remain close friends.

Competing in a golf tournament where there are only two players.

“Since 1972 we’ve been having this Dong Tam invitational going back and forth visiting each other,” says Bongart.

There’s a saying everything happens for a reason.

And for these two brothers in combat, they believe a higher power had plans for this friendship.

“We are brothers in Christ. That’s how I would describe our relationship,” says Garver.

“God put Duane on the helicopter to bail me out sort of speak,” says Bongart.

In October, both Garver and Bongart were honored by the state of Michigan.

Garver was recognized for his heroic actions.

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