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Anonymous...that’s how many remained...as Vietnam veterans returned after defending our country to assimilate back into society. The Vietnam War ended April, 30, 1975, and Henry Mayo Hospital opened its doors in August of that same year.  

Anonymous.  For decades, no one at Henry Mayo knew their role and previous life as soldiers.   Approaching them several weeks ago for this event, I realized even as healers, their personal recovery was not complete and still evolving, as many found it difficult to verbalize or even discuss their Vietnam involvement.

Today, all of those I introduce returned to find their place medically treating the people of Santa Clarita.  The public though does not realize their contribution to healthcare in our community, but I know the non-TV reality and measure of their valiant efforts.  The great elements of human characteristics...including compassion, wisdom, skills, sacrifice, determination, and conviction...I have found in my colleagues.   That is why I have the greatest admiration and respect for all of them. 

As a friend and resident of Santa Clarita, I wish to honor now the following Vietnam veterans of Henry Mayo Hospital.

First, those who are not present today:

Art Vatz - urologist and original member of the Medical Staff, 1975 - my teacher and mentor I met as a medical student helping guide my surgical skills. 

Art Garfinkel - orthopedist - perfectionist to the hilt.  Visited the Washington, D.C. Vietnam Memorial three times before he could approach it...as he had lost so many friends.

Jack Patterson - cardiologist.  Daily saving lives using his cardiac catherization skills opening heart vessels.  Tears welled in his eyes as he talked about those who were lost in Vietnam at his side.

Michael Shapiro - orthopedist.  Excellent with his hands, and always opinionated in ways to improve care for our patients.

Allen Karz - cardiologist.  The wise professor of Henry Mayo Hospital, who’s critical thinking and understanding of the entire field of medicine makes him the “doctor’s doctor.”

Patsy Desimone - head of radiology and recently passed away - for his skills in deciphering and communicating technologic advances to our Medical Staff.

James Macabee - trauma surgeon.  First member of his family to graduate high school and go to college.  Medic in Vietnam, but knew “I can do that!”, launching him into a new arena saving lives, and featured with Henry Mayo on TVs “Life in the ER” as they saved an LAPD Officer’s life.

And those who are here today:

Bill Sickler - ICU RN.  Also assisting to save the LAPD Officer’s life, but always preeminent in compassion providing outstanding care to our critically ill patients in the Intensive Care Unit.

George Charnock - endocrinologist.  His biggest sacrifice is yet to come.  His daughter, Katie, a Hart High graduate and physician herself, will be deployed to Afghanistan in December.

Dee Nance - RN Behavioral Health Unit.  Tirelessly and compassionately caring for our PTSD patients over 18 years.

Karl Stein - plastic surgeon.  Skillfully putting an obliterated face back together after trauma.

Tony Panasci - vascular surgeon. Reestablishing circulation in a mangled limb preventing amputation.

Sum Tran - plastic surgeon.  His grandfather was Prime Minister of Vietnam and was assassinated.  As a physician, he operated and saved American lives, but was not in our military.  He left his homeland as a “boat person”, yet still yearly returns as he has established a surgical clinic for the Vietnamese people.  He told me he wanted to let the American people know how grateful he is for the sacrifice our nation made to his country.

John Cocco - internal medicine and original member of the Medical Staff, 1975.  Forever fixed in my memory of him quietly holding the hand of his dying elder senior patient in the middle of the night...is who John Cocco is.

Doug Gadowski - cardiologist and original member of the Medical Staff, 1975.  Saving the lives of soldier around him after his tank was blown up earned him the Bronze Star Medal for Heroism.  He was anonymous, and no one knew...until the arrival of this Wall.

Mark Twain one said:  “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

I say:  “Patriotism is supporting your troops and veterans all the time, because they are the ones who deserve it.”

They are our heroes, and veterans cannot, and should not be anonymous anymore.

Thank you to all our Henry Mayo Hospital veterans.

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.