Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP, MACE
Every year Brad and I spend a weekend in some city just walking around bonding with each other. We try to solve the world’s problems. We talk about everything from life in the present to life in the future.
It is truly a great experience for me. I learn more from him than he learns from me. Our roles are reversed at this stage of life. He is now my mentor.
Last week he expressed interest in going to visit his place of birth, Blytheville Arkansas, for our 2014 weekend.
I have many wonderful stories about Blytheville Air Force Base and its 851st Medical Division. My first is:
Drafted Into The Air Force 1965
On February 13, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson authorized Rolling Thunder, the sustained bombing of North Vietnam. With Rolling Thunder, the Vietnam War officially escalated.
Even though I received a Berry Plan exemption to complete my Internal Medicine training, I was drafted to active duty when the war escalated.
My orders said to report to Blytheville Air Force Base Hospital, 851st Medical Group on July 1,1965.
I found out who to protest to. The Major General I spoke to in Washington said, “Sorry son, America is at war.”
Cecelia was pregnant with our first son, Brad. He kicked for the first time in Smokey Mountain National Park. Cecelia screamed and I almost went off the road.
Physicians practicing at the hospital found out through the grapevine that I was going to be stationed in Blytheville, Arkansas. Many just looked as if they pitied me for my bad luck.
Stanley Gittleson M.D. a practicing pediatrician at the hospital, came up to me in the hall one day and said he heard I was going to be stationed at Blytheville Air Force Base in Arkansas. I said, “Yes.”
My roommate at Cornell University came from Blytheville, Arkansas. His parents lived there because his father was a civil engineer who had a government contract to build the Bayous along the Mississippi River from St Louis to 200 miles south of Memphis.
Jerry Cohen was brought up in Blytheville. His father sent him east to his alma mata, Cornell for college and graduate school. Jerry wanted to become a civil engineer and join his father’s construction company.
At Cornell Jerry met a girl from New London Connecticut. After graduate school Jerry and Huddy married. Jerry convinced Huddy to move to Blytheville, Arkansas.”
Stanley Gittleson said “They are two great people. They will welcome you and Cecelia to Blytheville.
Just call him up and say, “ Gittleson sent you.”
Cecelia and I were nervous about going to Blytheville, Arkansas. We were two kids who grew up on the streets of New York. We had never traveled anywhere except to the Catskill Mountains in New York State during our familys’ summer vacations.
We were immediately relieved to know all we had to do was call and say “Gittleson sent us.”
It was exactly what I did the first afternoon we got there. Jerry said in his charming southern accent, “Why don’t you guys come over to the house tonight for dinner.”
Jerry, Huddy and their two girls took us in as family immediately. They were at our side during Cecelia’s pregnancy. Huddy was right there at the Air Force Base Hospital as we waited for Brad’s birth on December 1, 1965.
As it turned out, Blytheville Arkansas was a great experience that neither of us will forget.
I look forward to visiting Blytheville with Brad in 2014. We will stay in Memphis for the weekend.
The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.
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