What do Senator John McCain, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Henry Mayo Hospital’s Dr. Doug Gadowski have in common?  All three are recipients of the Bronze Star Medal for Heroism.

Issued on June 7, 1967 to Army Captain Douglas R. Gadowski  “for heroism in connection with military actions involving conflict with an armed hostile force” not one physician at our hospital knows of his honor, nor I doubt anyone in the community.  But in a far off Vietnam war long ago, the heroics exhibited by Dr. Gadowski are etched in American history and in the minds of those he saved in battle on March 20th, 1967.

Ticker-tape parades greeted soldiers on their return home after World War II victories in Europe and the Pacific.  But for soldiers returning from Vietnam, the open-arms of America were closed and replaced with resentment and hostility.  There were no thanks or accolades as these defenders of our nation attempted to quietly melt back into American society and be forgotten.  

Chuck Morris, a Korean Veteran and resident of Friendly Valley, felt a need to honor these unsung heroes, so with the help of Mayor Bob Kellar arranged for the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall to visit Santa Clarita at the end of September.  Knowing several of my physician colleagues were veterans, I have tried to locate members of Henry Mayo Hospital that served...which turned out not to be an easy task. 

Almost all were reluctant to discuss their role in battle or support, as their mental scars still linger.  One visited the Washington, D.C. Vietnam Memorial three times, but was unable to approach it until the third time because of the memory of his lost friends.  Another teared as he recalled losing soldiers around him, and one told his story of surviving a direct hit on his vehicle after being attacked by an enemy anti-tank rocket.  He told me this four weeks ago, and stated he had never discussed this incident with anyone since it occurred.

The arrival of the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall will not only allow recognition of those who put on a uniform to defend our country, but also to purge those locked-up emotions that have festered the psyche for so long.

The following are those members of Henry Mayo Hospital who you should come to honor at 6 pm Saturday, September 28th at Town Center Mall:

Bill Sickler, ICU RN

Doug Gadowski, cardiology

John Cocco, internal medicine

George Charnock, endocrinology

Jack Patterson, cardiology

Allen Karz, cardiology

Art Garfinkel, orthopedics

Michael Shapiro, orthopedics

Art Vatz, urology

Karl Stein, plastic surgery

James Macabee, trauma

Tony Panasci, vascular surgery

Sum Tran, plastic surgery

Patsy Desimone, radiology (deceased)

They came from war to fight a different battle bringing healthcare to the Santa Clarita community.  It is now our turn to reset the attitude toward our veterans, and therefore it is time you come and honor them with the thanks and accolades they deserve.

Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D. – Guest Commentary

Gene Dorio, M.D., is a local physician. His guest commentary represents his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with including the Medical Executive Committee and Medical Staff of Henry Mayo Hospital, or those of The SCV Beacon.