By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There are many stories of how veterans help our country, but this is a story about one veteran helping another.

Ninety-three-year-old Vic Ide was having serious health problems last winter. His family thinks a chance meeting with another Navy veteran may have saved his life.

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“I saw the world and the ship was like a mother. It took care of you,” Joe Keilen said.

For Joe, the ship was the USS Shangri-La, and it took care of him from 1958-1962. It did the same for Vic Ide from 1945-1947.

But despite similar life experiences, Vic and Joe didn’t know each other until about nine months ago.

“A nurse told my daughter, ‘I will give your dad three days to live,'” Vic said.

Last winter, Vic had a heart attack and his outlook wasn’t good. His family got him into a hospice program that matches veterans with veteran volunteers. That’s when fate paired one Navy man with another.

“I told him I was on the Shangri-La and Joe popped up, ‘That was my ship too!'” said Vic.

The odds were even slimmer than the odds doctors gave Vic to survive.

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“We hit it off real good because we’re both hard of hearing and all we did was say, ‘What? What? What?'” said Joe with a laugh.

Turns out they had way more in common than being hard of hearing. Vic and Joe now get together a couple times a week and talk for hours about serving their country.

Another reason why their friendship was meant to be is that the anchor from the USS Shangri-La ended up in Litchfield, just 20 miles from Vic and Joe.

Vic’s family believes Joe and these trips down memory lane are the reasons he’s lived to see another Veterans Day.

“He has slowly progressed to where he is now after being told he only had two days to two weeks to live in January,” said Vic’s daughter, Marcia Dummer.

But in this veteran friendship, both men are on duty.

“It means everything to me, absolutely. It means everything to me,” Joe said.

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Joe meets Vic at the Harmony River Living Center in Hutchinson at least twice a week. They met through Allina Health’s “We Honor Veterans” program.

John Lauritsen