For more than fifty years the Medical Corps of the U.S. military, bowing to pressure from the AMA, refused to commission DOs into its ranks. Not even the passage by Congress of Public Law 84-763 in 1956 which enabled Surgeons General of the Armed Forces to accept DOs had been enough to force a change in policy. The war in Vietnam was the turning point. The need for physicians grew as did the outrage among allopathic physicians over the exemption of osteopathic physicians from the military draft. In 1966 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara invoked the authority granted his office a decade earlier and authorized all branches of the military to accept DOs on the same basis as MDs. On the same day McNamara announced the change, Harry J. Walter, DO (COM '65) volunteered and became the first DO commissioned into the U.S. Armed Forces.
Edward Feldman, DO (COM '66), donated a series of photographs depicting the 77 day seige of Khe Sanh to the D'Angelo Library. Dr. Feldman was there for all 77 bloody days, leading the American troops by the last day because all the other officers were wounded. (Photo courtesy Edward Feldman, DO)
After this photograph was taken, this aid station was destroyed by a direct hit. After that the medics moved into underground bunkers fortified with sandbags. Under constant fire, doctors wore flak jackets and steel helmets while performing surgeries. (Photo courtesy Edward Feldman, DO)
The first female recipient of KCUMB's Star Spangled Medallion, Col. Elizabeth P. Clark, DO (COM '87) was awarded the Bronze Star in 2007 as well as numerous other military decorations for her service in Iraq. Her experiences there included performing surgeries in tent clinics, sometimes during sandstorms, and the moving of 4,000 patients on aeromedical evacuations. While loading and unloading patients from helicopters, Col. Clark had to wear 45 pounds of body armor.
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Here Harry J. Walter, DO (COM '65), is being sworn into the Air Force on July 14, 1966 at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base in Grandview, Missouri. Commissioned as a first lieutenant, Dr. Walter requested Vietnam duty. Though pleased to be the first DO to be commissioned Dr. Walter said he was prouder of the fact that osteopathy had achieved this goal. "As qualified physicians, members of my profession feel we should be permitted to serve, and as Americans we want to."
It was in such a bunker that Dr. Feldman received Pfc. Robert Mussari who was brought in with a live 81mm shell embedded in his abdomen. Assisted by a medic and an explosives engineer holding a flashlight, Dr. Feldman proceeded to treat the Marine who was still conscious. Touching the bomb with a metal instrument could have caused detonation so Dr. Feldman used his bare hands to move muscle and tissue away from the bomb and lift it out. He handed it to the engineer to be taken away and detonated while he closed the patient up. For this and other actions he performed in Vietnam, Dr. Feldman won a Silver Star and has been nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. Patient and doctor would meet again after the war. Dr. Feldman delivered Robert Mussari's first child in 1978. (Photo courtesy Edward Feldman, DO)
Currently at the D'Angelo Library and Archives, Col. Jose Thomas-Richards, DO's Bronze Star was "Presented To Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences In Appreciation of Your Support of Alumni in Uniform-It is you who made me what I an today....to give all that mortality could give, and more."
Awarded since 2004, the Star Spangled Banner Medallion exemplifies the University's core values demonstrated through commitment in service to The United States of America.
2004 Jose Thomas-Richards, DO (COM '70)
2005 Frederick G. Flynn, DO (COM '76)
2006 Avon C. Coffman, DO (COM '76)
2007 Marc G. Cote, DO (COM '82)
2008 George L. Pratt, DO (COM '83)
2009 Elizabeth P. Clark, DO (COM '87)
2010 Daniel K. Berry, DO (COM '84)
2011 Edward M. Feldman, DO (COM '66)
2012 Gladstone Payton, DO (COM '67)
2014 Marshall N. Walker, DO (COM '72)
2015 Lewis D. Neace, DO (COM '75)
2016 Harry J. Walter, DO (COM '65)
2017 Michael Frayser, DO (COM '03)
2018 Joel M. Feder, DO (COM '75)
2019 Herman Barthel, DO (COM '84)
2020 Laura K. Dawson, DO (COM '06)
Two of the early DOs to serve in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in Vietnam were Drs. Jerry Cupps and Tim Cloonan (both COM '67). This photo was taken at the 93rd Evacuation Hospital in Long Binh in 1969. (Photo courtesy Col. Tim Cloonan, DO)
In 2003 Col. Jose Thomas-Richards, DO (COM '70), was deployed to Afghanistan as the sole orthopedic surgeon for the 948th Forward Surgical Team, better known as the "Devil Docs". After determining that the FST didn't have the proper surgical equipment to perform surgery on a coalition soldier's fractured wrist, he improvised and used a sterilized industrial drill to perform the procedure. It saved the soldier from being evacuated to his home country for treatment. Col. Thomas-Richards used the drill on numerous occasions, saving the US goverment thousands of dollars by not requiring the evacuations of soldiers. He also initiated the first contact between the 948th FST and the civilian Mir Wais Hospital in Kandahar. For his contributions to Operation Enduring Freedom Col. Thomas-Richards was awarded a Bronze Star which he donated to KCU.