David Loeb read the paper on Saturday, and a story took him back to 1967, to boot camp at Parris Island, to one of the other Marines in his platoon.
At his Clearwater apartment, Loeb pulled out an old yearbook and searched for Ruben Bell Jr.’s picture.
There he was, in dress blues.
For years, people had been looking for a photograph of Bell. The Wall of Faces project is trying to collect images to go with all 58,318 names etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Bell’s close family is now deceased, and distant relatives couldn’t find a picture. After the Tampa Bay Times went looking, it received a grainy old photo attached to Bell’s military records. The picture looks almost like a criminal mugshot, with the private’s ID number underneath his face.
Loeb, now 74 and retired, thought Bell deserved better.
He remembers the young man from St. Petersburg, who was only 19 when he enlisted. Loeb was 23.
At boot camp, there wasn’t time to sit and socialize, but some of the men left an impression, Loeb said, even 50 years later.
"I just remember him as a very focused, quiet individual," Loeb said of Bell. "No nonsense."
As a team member, Loeb said, Bell was unselfish.
After boot camp, Bell was shipped to Vietnam. He was only there about a week before he was fatally injured in an explosion.
Loeb went on to jump school and later into the reserves.
"The real heroes are the guys who went over there," he said.
He retired after a career in the wine and liquor industry and came back to Florida. Like Bell, he was born in Miami, though he didn’t know that until he read the story.
He felt like he had to share the better image of Bell.
"Once a Marine," he said, "always a Marine."