Soldier Surprised By Battle Buddy After 12 Years Apart

A retiring Army sergeant was left stunned when his military battle buddy who he hadn’t seen in 12 years travelled across the country to surprise him at his retirement party. Derek Bateman, 40, and Joe Malik, 52, first met while attending basic training for the United States Army's basic training program at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in 2010. Derek and Joe bonded over being two of the "older guys" at training, and as both suffer from ADHD, offered a level of support for one another. As they progressed into Advanced Individual Training (AIT), their camaraderie naturally grew, and the best pals finished as the top graduates in their class, focusing on cyber intelligence. After completing training, Derek, a corporal, was sent to Afghanistan twice, while Joe, a sergeant first class, served elsewhere. Though they were physically separated, they remained a constant source of support for each other – including when Joe almost lost his life while serving in Africa during one of his eight mobilizations. Over the decade that followed, Derek would often talk about how much he missed spending time with Joe in person. And so, when he and his wife, Amber, received a secret invitation to Joe's retirement party, the couple thought it was a perfect foil to reunite the two military buddies.