On this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, two stories from veterans about friendships they forged on the battlefield. After decades of separation from the military — and each other — you’ll hear from soldiers, and the medics who had their backs.

First, a story from the Vietnam War that starts in 1967. By that time, close to 500,000 US troops were serving overseas, including Kay Lee and John Nordeen. Kay was 22, a combat medic from San Francisco. John was 20, a soldier from Seattle. They were West Coast guys assigned to the same army platoon and became fast friends. Nearly 50 years later, they sat down at StoryCorps to remember how they first met.


And second, a conversation with Retired First Sergeant Keith Melick, who spent almost three decades in the military as a medic. And although he saved the lives of countless soldiers over the years, he never got to know them beyond those critical moments of care. But in 2014, a chance encounter at a VA medical center in North Carolina brought Keith face-to-face with Roy Wilkins, a command sergeant major in the army’s Special Forces, ten years after Keith rescued Roy in Afghanistan.


Top image: Artwork by Eleanor Davis.
Middle photo: Kay Lee and John Nordeen in 1967 during the Vietnam War, left, and in 2018 after their StoryCorps interview in San Francisco, CA. Left photo courtesy of John Nordeen, right photo by Susan Lee for StoryCorps.
Bottom photo: Retired Army Special Forces Command Sgt. Maj. Roy Wilkins (left) and retired 1st Sgt. Keith Melick (right) at their StoryCorps interview in Lansing, Kansas. By Natalia Fidelholtz for StoryCorps.

Released on November 13, 2018.

 Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Untitled #2” by Yusuke Tsutsumi from the album Birds Flying In The Dark
“A day in Port-Royal” by Ending Satellites from the album And so sing the black birds
“Untitled #3” by Yusuke Tsutsumi from the album Birds Flying In The Dark
“The Pediment” by Fabian Almazan and Linda Oh
“Teenage Dream” by Yusuke Tsutsumi from the album Flower Song

This podcast is brought to you by supporters of StoryCorps, an independently funded nonprofit organization, and is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.