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Before serving Virginia, they served beside heroes

Sunday - 5/26/2013, 11:21am  ET

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. - A split second in time, an arm's length distance on Korea's bloody Pork Chop Hill 60 years ago and California college boy Jim Cunningham might be an old man now.

But Cunningham's last act in life was to shove his Virginia Army buddy into a bunker during a mortar barrage. His friend, 22-year-old Sgt. Doug Wilder, lived to become Virginia's 66th governor and America's first elected black governor.

Former Navy Secretary John Warner reluctantly granted Marine Col. Bill Leftwich a third combat tour in Vietnam. He cherished Leftwich and figured two tours were enough. But Leftwich wanted to command an elite reconnaissance unit, so Warner relented. Leftwich died with his unit in a helicopter crash.

For Wilder, for Warner, sweet memories of their fallen comrades beckon each Memorial Day.

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