50 years later, Orlando Vietnam veteran meets medic who saved him: 'Thank you! Thank you!'
March 15, 2019
“All this time, we were living just a couple of counties apart,” said Joyner, shaking his head at the man across the table. “All this time, I just wanted to thank him for saving my life.”Longwood’s Dennis Joyner had to wait 50 years to thank the man who saved his life in Vietnam.
Joyner, now 70, was a 20-year-old infantryman with a wife and newborn son on June 26, 1969, when he tripped a landmine while on patrol. The explosion blew off one of his legs and shredded the other so badly it had to be amputated. It took off his left arm below the elbow.
He might easily have bled to death or died of shock or infection. But a young medic with a Tennessee accent sprinted to his side, helping to tie a series of tourniquets around his limbs, administering morphine and ferrying him to a medevac helicopter.
On Friday, at the Old Florida Grill and Oyster House near Cocoa, one of Dewey “Doc” Hayes’ favorite haunts, Joyner finally got the chance he’d wanted for half a century.
The words rushed out in a torrent.
“Thank you! Thank you!” he said, his body shaking with emotion as Hayes, now 70 too, embraced him.
“I’ve been trying to find you for so damn long,” Joyner said. “You been hiding?”
After five surgeries and five months in various hospitals, Joyner had gone back to college before working as a court administrator in Pennsylvania and as a volunteer for the Disabled American Veterans, the organization created by Congress to help wounded vets and their families. In 1977, he was named the nation's “Handicapped American of the Year,” and he served as national commander of the DAV in 1983 and ’84, work he continues to this day.
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