At 93, World War II vet Norwood Thomas is still pretty darn romantic.
His wartime girlfriend, Joyce Morris, 88, remembers him as a “scalawag,” a dashing paratrooper with a warm Southern drawl who she met on the banks of the Thames in 1945. When they were reunited via Skype two months ago, he cooed sweet nothings into the computer screen as though 70 years and 10,000 of miles weren’t between them.
“The only one big problem is, I can’t take you in my arms and give you a squeeze,” the vet said.
“Well, we’ve got to get on that then,” she responded.
Thanks to the generosity of strangers and romantics, the wartime lovers will reunite in time for Valentine’s Day. Norwood will fly from his home in Virginia Beach all the way to Australia, where Joyce now lives, to give her that squeeze in person. The airline is flying Norwood for free so they can be reunited.
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“I’m numb,” the vet told the Virginian-Pilot. “I have no idea what my emotions are going to be once we meet face to face.”
Their story began 72 years ago, according to the Washington Post. The World War II vet met his wartime girlfriend months before he was set to parachute into Normandy. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that he took part in the D-Day landings with the Army’s 101st Airborne division.
The young soldier was smitten with his wartime girlfriend — they spent every weekend together taking walks, talking, having dinner at their favorite café. Then the romance abruptly stopped, and “instead of seeing her the next week, I just never saw her again,” he recalled.
Shortly after, he shipped out to France, and after the war, he moved back to Virginia. There, he began to write letters to Joyce in Surrey. He asked his beautiful wartime girlfriend to come to America and to marry him. But back in England, Morris said his words made her think he was already married.
“And that was the end of it,” she said.
“You broke my heart,” he accused.
Thomas met his wife shortly afterward, “who helped my mixed up head get straight.” They stayed married in the decades since, until her recent death. Now a widower, the vet began to think of his long-lost wartime girlfriend and wondered what would’ve happened if she’d said yes. If she’d been his wife.
Meanwhile, the one that got away had moved to Australia after getting married and had two sons; she left her husband after 37 years. And then she began to wonder, too: What if I had said yes?
One day a few months ago, she asked her son while he was on the computer if he could look someone up for her: Norwood Thomas, 101st Airborne. Luckily, the Pilot had done a story about the vet’s 88th birthday when he went skydiving. Her son called the reporter, who was shopping in Home Depot at the time. It took him a minute, but he knew who Joyce was. And he was more than happy to help them be reunited.
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Shortly after, Thomas’ son, Steven, got an email all the way from Australia — from the son of his father’s wartime girlfriend.
The two reunited on Skype shortly after, talking for two hours about their romance, CBS News added. If not for Morris’ near-blindness and Thomas’ ill-health, it was as though they’d never parted. And the couple were reluctant to say goodbye during their chat. Their parting words were sweet and hopeful.
“I just wish I could give you a hug and tell you good night,” he told her. “But since I can’t, I’ll just say, ‘You take care.'”
He then waved goodbye to the screen, saying, “Good night for now.”
After learning about their story, Navy vet Barbara McDonald set up a GoFundMe page so the couple could be reunited in person. So far, $7,500 has been raised and the love-struck vet will fly to Adelaide in February, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
“To be able to see her after all these years, I am looking forward to that.”
[Photo via YouTube]