They finally met their livesaving, leg-saving heroes


The first season of "We'll Meet Again" created some terrific reunions. Now the second season will start strong on Tuesday (Nov. 13); here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

Roger Wagner was
sure he would lose his leg; Dave Johnson was sure he would lose his
life.

Then heroes
intervened; now – 50 and 46 years later – they've had a chance to
thank them.

Both are in the
season-opener of PBS' “We'll Meet Again,” with dramatic Vietnam
stories.

As a finance clerk,
Wagner seemed out of danger. But clerks took rifle practice, firing
at a hill; one day in 1968, someone fired back. Soon, he said, he was
waiting for surgery in Long Binh. “They said, 'We have to let you
know we're going to amputate your leg.'”

And then ... they
didn't. “I came out of surgery and (the nurse) told me that they
had saved my leg.”

It would be a
half-century before he learned the full story: Dr. Mayer Katz had
only been a surgeon for six months when he tried a difficult
procedure, using an unneeded vein as a replacement.

Johnson's crisis
came four years later. He was a captain, doing his third tour, when
his helicopter crashed 15 miles into Cambodia. Surrounded by gunfire,
he and his men had no way out ... until Bruce Grable heard his
distress call and daringly landed his 98-foot Chinook 'copter.

In later years,
Wagner and Johnson tried unsuccessfully to find their saviors. Then
they contacted the people at the PBS show. “They made it like an
adventure,” said Johnson, 78, “like an odyssey.”

Both had emotional
reunions. “I was speechless,” Wagner said. “All I could do was
just think about ... holding the hands that saved my leg .... He's 82
(and) just retired last year. The things that he's done for people
are just marvelous.”

With the leg healed,
Wagner even played on a college tennis team. He's 71, divorced, a
retired postal worker; “I live in Las Vegas and play a lot of
golf.”

And Johnson? “I
spent 26 years in the Army ... and had a couple of jobs after that.”
He's been married 54 years and has two children -- both pre-schoolers
on the day their dad's life was saved.

-- “We'll Meet
Again,” 8 p.m. for six Tuesdays on PBS, starting Nov. 13