I’m Dr. Al. I’m in my eighties. My new memoir, Flight Quack, is meant to intrigue, disturb and hopefully enlighten. I am able to speak out because I was never sworn to secrecy. I wrote it now because I’m angry, like most of us, watching what happened in Afghanistan, and Iraq before that. Decades of warfare, American bloodshed, trillions of our tax dollars spent, and it all quickly collapsed. Nothing has changed.
In my book, peer intensely in the looking glass, first-hand, and experience how war is not glorious, as portrayed in movies and video games. No one wins. Everyone loses, except for those who greatly profit from it.
Over fifty years ago, I was a Harvard-trained pediatrician drafted as a Navy Flight Surgeon, thrust into the Vietnam War and onto the front lines.
As U.S. Marines, our motto is Never Leave a Man Behind. That means Medevac helicopter crews were rushed into live combat under the protection of Huey gunships to rescue wounded comrades. During these thunderous extractions, I tried to save as many young Marines as I could, forced to practice crude procedures, under intense fire, as we fought for own lives.
One direful night, I discovered I was as efficient with a knife as I was with a scalpel. My first enemy kill came during a base incursion. I was attacked in my bunker by a teenaged Viet Cong fighter. I stabbed him mortally with a single thrust of my blade. I felt his heart stop beating.
As I sank deeper into my battle-induced psychosis, my desire to kill grew stronger. I was recruited for the CIA’s Operation Phoenix, a counter-insurgency campaign and assigned to assassination teams. I had a death wish.
Miraculously surviving, I returned to healing, as opposed to killing, through my work as a pediatric cancer doctor, research immunologist and as a legal advocate for Agent Orange victims.
For my actions in combat, I was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Valor, Combat Action Ribbon and Air Medal with 3 Gold Stars. However, I’m not bursting with pride. I am tortured by memories of all the dead boys, the guilt of surviving, of what I was directed to do, and how I was rejected and spit upon back home.
Why do we fight these proxy wars?
“War is a racket,” stated USMC Major General Smedley D. Butler in his 1935 treatise. In his 1959 farewell speech, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of a profit-focused military industrial complex, declaring: “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
This book is a gut-wrenching wake-up call, more relevant today than ever. As painful as my war experiences were to relive and relay, my hope is to save young lives and create positive change. Find my story at flightquack.com.