In Celebration of Veteran’s Day
The Pagosa Springs community has many veterans and goes all out to honor them with several events a year. Sample some of these today.
I Soldier, A Vet’s Story for Veteran’s Day
I cannot claim heroic deeds nor recite grizzly war stories from my time in the military. Considering the time, right in the middle of the darkest days of the Vietnam War, my story is different.
I was living with my older sister in Dallas while working late night shifts at a 7-11 store and majoring in art at North Texas State University all day. I grew tired and took a semester off.
“Greetings Norm,” the letter started, I was drafted!
From that monumental moment forward all I can say is, “Someone up there was watching out for me.”
After a several day battery of tests and, in their infinite wisdom, the U.S. Army decided to make a medic from an art student. Zoom to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. As base bound students we sat in barracks in the evenings watching the TV news. There was grim film every night along with the numbers of causalities mounting up. Basic and Advanced Medic Training took a couple of intense months. Every medic class graduating and getting “orders” went to Vietnam during that time. Doomed!
We never knew, my buddies in Company A1 and I, but a slight tear in the fabric of the order of things occurred and we were all sent to Bavaria, Germany for the duration. Until we finally stopped keeping track, every class after us went to Vietnam. We didn’t know and we didn’t question!
I was sent to Nuremberg, Germany and then on to Grafenwoehr, Germany, the free world’s largest training center. The original base was built by Hitler during the war and ordered constructed so it looked like any other German village from war airplanes. It still looked like the village with newer military building in the distance. For an Army base it was remarkably charming! Outside the base the charming villages were real. I received permission to own a motorbike and spent time-off buzzing through the dark forests and mountains of southern Germany. Longer time-off was spent riding trains to several European cities. Every city was a paradise of art, I was in the Army and heaven at the same time!
The medic work was a learning experience beyond all other. War training is second only to war for on the job injury! We were frontline care for wounded military and we gave care to the “permanent party” base families. We had the full range of combat injury and deaths to birthing babies and family medicine. The European theater was pulled way down having sent many soldiers to the war effort and there were many boring duty hours so I spent time learning pharmacy, laboratory, x-ray, supply and emergency room. Near the end of my time my Colonel in Nuremberg gave me a letter of commendation and a ribbon.
This military experience sent me on a path that altered my life forever. I left the military and went to school in the medical field. I worked in cardiac nuclear medicine research at Parkland Hospital and the University of Texas Medical School at Dallas for many years. My team developed a new medical test that is still done in hospitals worldwide. Later, living in the Pagosa Springs area, I volunteered for the medical community helping design and build the Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Center and starting the process that ultimately developed our first hospital. My military experience has born fruit and I am proud of that!
I didn’t apply for VA Benefits until in my 50s and my care with colon cancer surgery and heart problems has been exemplary.
When one enters the military there is a contract made. The military and government has lived up to its agreement with me perfectly. I have no complaints and I am proud to be a veteran.