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David Goldman, Associated Press
In this Monday, March 19, 2012 photo, World War II veteran Sam Spector holds a 1944 photo of himself, front row second from left, with Kachin Rangers, taken in northern Myanmar, at his home in Rome, Ga. They're in their 80s and 90s, and it all happened a very long ago and far away, but American World War II veterans are still repaying "debts'' to their comrades-in-arms in northern Myanmar because without them they might not have returned home.

LAIZA, Myanmar — American World War II veterans are still repaying what they call "debts" to an embattled ethnic group in northern Myanmar.

They've set up education, health and other programs in a remote region to help the Kachin, an ethnic group they fought alongside with against the Japanese.

Some Americans say that without the Kachin, they might never have returned home.

Both sides say the brotherly bonds they formed have not been severed despite the isolationist policies of Myanmar and a long-running conflict between the autonomy-seeking Kachin and the military-backed government.