OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A powerful military reunion took place Thursday night in Overland Park when the family of a man who gave his life to save others in the Vietnam War came face to face with one of the men he saved.
Lt. Cmdr. Roger Madison cheated death on the battlefield in 1971, so Thursday he flew from Florida to Kansas to say thank you to the family of the 18-year-old who saved his life.
Madison relived April 23, 1971, the day his helicopter was shot down in enemy territory in North Vietnam. The situation seemed hopeless.
“I could hear the Vietcong crawling all around me, looking for us,” Madison said. “There was one about 6 feet away from where I was hiding behind a log.”
Surrounded by the enemy, Madison’s friend, Army Ranger Johnny Ray Sly ran through enemy fire to retrieve a radio.
The Army flew in backup to save Madison and some others — but not before Sly was gunned down by enemy fire.
“Because of him, I lived,” Madison said. “All of us were wounded, and those who weren’t wounded had died.”
The organization Friends in Service of Heroes just recently connected Madison and Sly’s family.
“Talk about a gentleman who didn’t squander a second opportunity, didn’t squander that chance,” Paul Chapa with Friends in Service of Heroes said of Madison. “Not only did he survive, he went on to serve the Navy for 20 years.”
Madison and Chapa both acknowledged that Sly’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain.
“Johnny Ray died so others like Roger Madison could continue to serve and live, becoming proud fathers and grandfathers,” Chapa said.
“I would tell them that I appreciate what Johnny did, and I am living example of his life, his courage, his valor,” Madison said.