A Decade After Battle, Medic And Wounded Soldier Reunite

Nov 29, 2014
Originally published on November 29, 2014 12:05 pm

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ten years ago, Keith Melick was a medic in the Army, and Roy Wilkins was a command sergeant major in the Army's Special Forces.

They crossed paths in Afghanistan, where Wilkins was wounded in an IED explosion.

And then this August, by chance, they met again — in the gym at a VA medical center in North Carolina, where Wilkins was playing with his wheelchair basketball team.

"The thing that brought me to you in that gym was, I heard your voice," retired 1st Sgt. Melick tells Wilkins during a StoryCorps interview in Lansing, Kan. "You know, voices stick with you."

"Have you been to Kandahar?" Melick asked Wilkins in the gym that day. "Did you get blowed up in a Humvee?"

"'Yes, I did,' " Wilkins said.

"'I'm the one pulled you from that Humvee,' " Melick answered.

It happened in November 2004, during a mission to defuse IEDs. Melick, filling in as a medic on the mission, was in the Humvee behind Wilkins' vehicle when the explosion came.

"The next thing I know, I seen a blue flash," Wilkins says. He was severely wounded in the blast.

"As I came to your Humvee, the vehicle itself was just pieces." Melick recalls. "I did not expect to find anyone alive. ... I remember pulling you out and saying to you, 'I gotcha.' "

"That stuck in my ear," Wilkins says. "For years I kept hearing this voice: 'I gotcha, I gotcha.' And now I'm sitting before the brother that saved my life."

Neither man wanted to leave the gym after their chance reunion a decade later. In the months since that day, Keith and Roy have spoken on the phone every week.

"In my 28 years of the military, and through three different combat zones, you're the first one that I've ever reunited with," Melick tells Wilkins. "Because we [medics] don't know if you'd live or die. To see you today is like watching the angel walk through the door."

"I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart," Wilkins says. "And I wish I could just take my heart out and show it to you ... it is fluttering with nothing but joy."

Produced for Weekend Edition by Andres Caballero.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Let's check in now with StoryCorps and their Military Voices Initiative - sharing stories from post-9/11 servicemembers and their families. Today, the story of two soldiers reunited. Retired First Sergeant Keith Melick was a medic in the Army. And Roy Wilkins was a command sergeant major in the Army's Special Forces. They crossed paths 10 years ago in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where Roy was wounded in an IED explosion. The only met again, by chance, a few months ago. It was in the gym at a VA medical center in North Carolina where Roy was playing with his wheelchair basketball team.

FIRST SERGEANT KEITH MELICK: The thing that brought me to you in that gym was I heard your voice, and, you know, voices stick with you.

COMMAND SERGEANT MAJOR ROY WILKINS: You said, have you been to Kandahar? I said yes. Did you get blowed up in a Humvee? I said yes, I did. And he said I'm the one pulled you from that Humvee.

MELICK: Yeah. It was November 25, 2004.

WILKINS: We was out on a mission to diffuse IEDs.

MELICK: I was actually going out with them because they were down a medic. And I was in the Humvee behind you.

WILKINS: And the next thing I know, I seen a blue flash.

MELICK: As I came to your Humvee, the vehicle itself was just pieces. I did not expect to find anyone alive.

WILKINS: Lost my leg. I think my intestines was out.

MELICK: They were. And I remember pulling you out and saying to you, I got you.

WILKINS: And that stuck in my ear for years. I kept hearing this voice - I got you. I got you. And now I'm sitting before the brother that saved my life.

MELICK: That day I didn't want to leave the gym.

WILKINS: I didn't either. I started crying tears of joy.

MELICK: In my 28 years of the military and through three different combat zones, you're the first one that I've ever reunited with because we don't know if you live or die. To see you today is like watching the angel walk through the door.

WILKINS: I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. And I wish I could just take my heart out and show it to you that it is fluttering with nothing but joy.

SIMON: That was retired First Sergeant Keith Melick who was a medic in the Army and retired Army Special Forces Command Sergeant Major Roy Wilkins. Since their reunion, they have spoken on the phone every week. Their StoryCorps conversation was recorded in Lansing, Kansas, and is archived at the U.S. Library of Congress. You can hear more from the Military Voices Initiative on the StoryCorps podcast and get it on iTunes at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.