In 1969, I entered the Army as a captain in the Medical Corps. This was the time when all medical doctors either promised to go in after residency or were drafted out of internship. Fort Sill, Okla., was a foreign land for me. Being in the Army was still stranger, having to do psychiatric evaluations to determine ability to fight in Viet Nam. This was a responsibility I did not want.
My other major activity was dealing with rampant alcoholism, detoxing patients with DTs and setting up treatment programs. Many of the soldiers’ wives needed treatment for depression. I had gained valuable experience, as well as the miraculous birth of my daughter. By the time I was discharged as Major Shain, and being booed as I drove home, my pride turned to sadness and regret. I have visited the Vietnam Memorial in our capital and with tears read the 65,000 inscriptions and wondered how many of these American men I had OK’d to fight.
Robert A. Shain, M.D., Ph.D.