More than 65 years had passed since Alfred Elders and Jay Bartels last saw each other on the island of Guam during World War II.
A picture from a 1945 issue of The Banner helped bring the two West Michigan men together recently. Elders and Bartels, who both served in the U.S. Navy, were in the photo, a group of 30 men with ties to Christian Reformed churches back home.
They’re now hoping to connect with others who may still be living, as well as family members of those who have passed on.
Elders, 88, who attends Hope CRC in Grandville, Mich., recalled the day that the photo was taken. “On a Sunday, they had someone from the mission board ask for the CRC people to congregate (for the picture),” he said.
The photo featured troops from eight states, although most of them were from West Michigan. Elders was a Navy Seabee who drove a bulldozer to help build the airfield on Guam. Bartels, 86, was an aviation mechanic.
Bartels connected with Elders after sharing his copy of The Banner photo with a seniors’ fellowship group at Calvary CRC in Wyoming, Mich. Someone from his church knew Elders’s son, and it wasn’t long before the two veterans got together.
“(Elders) called me (one day) and wondered if we could get together,” Bartels said. The two have met several times since that initial phone call and are hopeful that they will hear from others in the photo.
Elders says his wartime experience was life-changing. “It opened my eyes to see how other people in the world lived,” he said.