LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A simple act of kindness and gratitude towards a stranger has blossomed into a lifelong friendship.
Earlier this month, Las Vegas veteran Tom Cittadino reached out to 13 Action News asking for help identifying the teen who gave him a heartfelt letter -- signed only as "Carly" -- during the Veterans Day parade downtown.
It turns out the author's full name is Carly King, and last weekend the two strangers were reunited as newfound friends.
"As a returning Vietnam vet, Carly's letter was so well written and heartfelt it moved me," said Cittadino, who was one of several veterans to receive a handwritten note from the then-stranger.
"It was a thank you I didn't receive upon returning from Vietnam almost 50 years ago, " he added.
"Although I was never ashamed of my service, performing my duties to the best of my ability, I didn't share my service with [anyone] other than my supportive family."
King has been writing letters to veterans ever since she was a little girl, her mother says.
"I write letters to our Veterans in hopes to make a difference and give them the recognition they deserve," said King.
After the story aired in our newscasts, King's family reached out to 13 Action News to connect with Cittadino.
On Nov. 17, the two went out for lunch.
#REUNITED: A #veteran asked for help finding the teen who gave him a heartfelt letter during the #LasVegas #VeteransDay parade. She has been found and now they are friends! Latest >> https://t.co/BSXNJnynbu pic.twitter.com/LSWFhwVsaF— KTNV Action News (@KTNV) November 24, 2019
"It was a really special moment for me to be able to sit down and talk with Tom [Cittadino] about the hardships that he, along with all of our Veterans, went through. One thing that really struck me is when Tom mentioned he couldn't wait to get back home to the 'world,'" said King.
"For him to refer to this as coming back to the U.S., the place he was in must have been horrific," she said.
"Nothing but kind words should have been thrown at Vietnam vets as they returned home. I can’t comprehend why anyone would treat our heroes so poorly. The disrespect and hatred they received is beyond imaginable."
After their lunch, Cittadino gave King something dear to him as a way to say thank you.
"He gave me his veteran hat. It meant so much to me and I will cherish it forever," said King.
King called it "an honor" to meet Cittadino and says the two already have plans to meet up again soon.
As for Cittadino, he said, "I want to thank my sister, Mary, and all the folks at KTNV for getting me in touch with Carly and her family.
"We had a wonderful luncheon Sunday, and because of the broadcast I was able to forward Carly's letter to other vets."