Two veterans share unbreakable bond

Two doctors at Phoenix Children's Hospital share an unbreakable bond that began half a world away, that still moves them to this day.

"I get to this time of year, and I think about him all the time," said Dr. Don McClellan, a pediatric endocrinologist. He and Robert Puntel work together at the hospital, and they have a relationship that both say they will cherish forever.

The unbreakable bond began in 2004, with a seven-month deployment to the Middle East., where the two were planning to work together in hospitals.

2004 was during a violent time in the US Invasion, in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's downfall, and plans changed. McClellan was sent to Mosul, while Puntel was just outside of Baghdad.

"Up where I was, we were getting mortared daily," said McClellan.

The bond came in 2005. In June of that year, McClellan's son was graduating High School, and his daughter was getting married, and McClellan learned something surprising, when he heard his replacement doctor was injured, and couldn't relieve his post.

"Well, Dr. Puntel has already volunteered to cover for you," said McClellan.

"I had four kids who were in High School, there weren't any big family events happening around that time for me," said Puntel. "I said, 'well, I know you'd do this for me, so I said I'd stay longer so you could do these big events."

Puntel stayed in Iraq for two more months, while McClellan attended his son's graduation, and walked his daughter down the aisle, and always remembering why he was there. From that moment on, the men have moved many by the story of their friendship. A bond between two veterans that will never be broken.

"It was the right thing to do, and he would have done it for me. It's true," said Puntel.