A man who lost three of his four limbs in the Vietnam War made an emotional reunion with the Army Medic who saved his life, seeing each other for the first time in half a century.
On June 26, 1969, Dennis Joyner was serving with the 9th Infantry Division in the jungles of Vietnam when someone snapped a photograph of him.
Little did he know at the time, however, that it would be the last photo anyone ever took of him with all four of his limbs still attached to his body.
A few hours later, Joyner was operating within the Mekong Delta when he activated a landmine, resulting in a chaotic scene of horror for his unit and the loss of his legs and one arm.
“I never lost consciousness when this happened,” he said. “I knew everything that was going on. Without Doc and the Sergeant, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Getting to work quickly, Dewey “Doc” Hayes managed to save Joyner’s life, albeit at a terrible cost.
As time went on, the two lost touch of one another, and Hayes occasionally wondered what became of his friend.
“I thought about him a lot through the years,” Hayes said. “[I] wondered how he was doing, and what he was doing… If he had done anything other than sit in a wheelchair.”
Since that fateful day, Joyner would go on to raise a family, have a successful career and even serve as the National Commander for the Disabled American Veterans.
“I just want the opportunity to get to thank Doc,” Joyner said before the reunion. “First, I want to thank him. Secondly, it was just a part of me that kind of wants to apologize to him for what I put him through.”
“I still picture that day,” Hayes said of Joyner’s wounding. “That’s gonna be there for the rest of my life.”
Nearly half a century later, Hayes would meet up with Joyner, coming together in Florida last month.
When Joyner rolled off of his vehicle’s wheelchair ramp, the endless list of things he wanted to say were reduced to two softly-spoken words accompanied by tears.
While Hayes was unsure how he would feel facing the subject of so many of his nightmares, he knows now that the reunion was the greatest of medicine for a condition once known as
“I’m glad I did,” he said.
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