Brawley Lovelace talks on the phone to Stephen Norpel for the first time in decades. (May 15, 2013/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -
"I just can't seem to find him or anyone in his family," is what Stephen Norpel explained in the letter he sent to FOX Carolina, asking for help finding a former boot camp colleague.
Brawley Lovelace is that man. He read the letter, and even though he didn't remember Norpel's name, he knew right away that the author knew him before because he knew the way Lovelace used to spell his name.
Brawley Lovelace used to be Brollie Loveless. The spelling and pronunciation changed before he knew it.
Lovelace said the name on his birth certificate was "Brawley B. Lovelace, Jr." However, he was raised by an aunt who pronounced his name the way "Brollie Loveless" is spelled. That's why she chose that spelling, and "Brollie Loveless" is how his Vietnam buddies knew him.
That is why it was so hard to find him.
When searching Loveless' name online, not much shows up. When looking up a family member's name, though, FOX Carolina realized that at some point, Loveless became Lovelace.
Lovelace didn't figure out that his aunt changed his name until around 1980, well after he spent time in Vietnam.
So when Norpel launched a search for everyone in his boot camp platoon, it wasn't surprising that he couldn't find Loveless.
Even though his world revolves around Semper Fi, with medals and photos on the walls, stickers on his cars and flags raised high by his front door, Lovelace has never been in touch with anyone with whom he fought or trained.
"When you leave Vietnam, man, you so anxious to get out of there, ‘cause you're alive. You know what I'm saying? And a lot of times, you just don't have time to get telephone numbers," said Lovelace.
So when he called Norpel, memories flooded back as the Vietnam vets reconnected.
Norpel said he found about 50 of the 74 men from their boot camp platoon. He said some have passed away, and a couple are listed on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. He said he'll never give up in his search to find every one of them.
Norpel is planning a big reunion for everyone to meet up in Oklahoma City this summer.
Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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