WWII veteran spent more than 60 years searching for wartime friend

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PERRY COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - After returning home from World War II, Robert Lockard lost touch with one of his closest army buddies, Perry County native Burnice Jones.

Lockard, 91, of Columbus, Ohio, says he spent more than 60 years searching for his friend.

He had all but given up hope when a breakthrough earlier this year finally led him to the mountains of Eastern Kentucky for an emotional and bittersweet reunion.

Both Lockard and Jones served in F Company, 354th Infantry Regiment, 89th Infantry Division.

During his time in Europe, Lockard says he experienced several close calls, and has the stories to prove it.

"Just then, I felt the wind of the bullet and it hit the brick on the building and turned it to dust," Lockard said, recalling a brush with death early in his tour of duty.

Some of Lockard's favorite stories involve Jones, or as he called him, Jonesy.

"Jonesy was just like me," Lockard said. "I always had my ethics, but I was onery and so was he."

Lockard says he lost touch with Jones after the war.

In the years that followed, Lockard would, from time to time, try to track down his old comrade.

He says he ran into roadblocks at every turn.

"I wrote this place and that place, and they'd say 'No, you're no relation.'"

Finally, a computer search put Lockard in touch with Jones' niece, Helen Jones, earlier this year.

"Tickled me to death," said Helen Jones, "and then from that, we've just been calling each other back and forth."

Burnice Jones, it turns out, passed away in 1983.

Lockard recently made the trip to Kentucky and visited Jones' grave, near where Jones grew up on Lost Creek.

"I was crying," said Lockard. "You're like brothers when you're on the front line."

Lockard takes comfort in finally learning what happened to his old comrade.

Even though these brothers in arms missed the chance to reunite, Lockard still has the stories to share with new friends in Kentucky.

Read the original version of this article at wymt.com.