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Tough-as-nails Vietnam veteran gives a kidney to save his war buddy's life

by Alexandra Zaslow / / Source: TODAY

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They say the bonds you make with your fellow soldiers in war last a lifetime — and John Middaugh and Henry "Bill" Warner know about that bond all too well.

Their friendship began in March 1968 at Fort Carson, Colorado, and is still going strong today.

So strong that when Warner's kidneys failed after he had open heart surgery, Middaugh stepped in to donate his kidney to his beloved Vietnam buddy.

Image: Henry "Bill" Warner, John Middaugh
Henry "Bill" Warner holds up a cell phone to show a photo of himself and Vietnam War buddy John Middaugh, prior to his kidney transplant surgery in New York.Mark Lennihan / AP

"I can't think of a better person to have given such a gift to than Bill," Middaugh told TODAY.com. "We are now connected in more ways than one."

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On Nov.2, Middaugh flew with his wife, Sue, from Port Orchard, Washington, to Brightwaters, New York, where Warner lives, and both men prepped for surgery.

It took place on Nov. 5 at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Image: Henry "Bill" Warner, John Middaugh
Middaugh and Warner served together in 1968 and 1969.Mark Lennihan / AP

The pair served in Vietnam together from the summer of 1968 to January 1969, when Middaugh rotated to a new assignment. They've kept in touch over the years.

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Warner was discharged in 1969 as a first lieutenant and began working in the computer industry.

Middaugh went on to do a third tour in Vietnam and eventually retired as a major in 1979.

He got a degree from Pacific Lutheran University and started a second career in civil service.

Image: Henry "Bill" Warner, John Middaugh
Warner, left, talks with his wife, Kathleen, while in the adjacent bed John Middaugh gets a kiss from his wife, Sue, prior to their surgeries.Mark Lennihan / AP

They were by each other's side at their weddings, and each celebrated the other when children arrived. Both men have two sons and a daughter.

They share frequent phone chats and have planned reunions with their wives, traveling together to Washington D.C. and Fort Benning, Georgia, over the years.

"Our wives get along really well and have become friends themselves over the years, which has only made Bill and I closer," Middaugh said.

Warner is still recovering in the hospital, while Middaugh flew back home Thursday feeling great.

"It's not very often in the course of one's lifetime that we have the opportunity to give the gift of life to someone," Middaugh said. "I'm happy to have been able to help my old war buddy."

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