Vietnam Soldiers – It’s Good News                                      VIETNAM STATUTES
Slice of Life
By – Sheri de Grom

It’s not often I hear a story about something good happening to a Vietnam soldier.

This past week, a neurological diagnostician shared the following story with my husband and me. We are all Vietnam-era age and the doc and my husband are both Vietnam veterans.

The doctor, now in private practice, was the Officer in Charge of a medium-sized Army hospital upon his return from Vietnam. We talked about how regulations were bound in those black notebooks we were all familiar with and how those ‘notebooks’ only came out when it was time for inspection.

During the last eighteen months of theVietnam conflict, the Army was going through a drastic down- sizing of service members—(much the way the military is doing now). See my blog here.

Wikipedia Commons

Wikipedia Commons

Senior enlisted soldiers with sixteen-to-eighteen years of active duty service were being denied the opportunity to re-enlist and complete their twenty years of service. As a result, these service members would be unable to retire with benefits after serving their country during the violent conflict of Vietnam.

Many of the soldiers received notices they were being separated from service because they were fifteen to forty pounds overweight.

The then young captain found this an unacceptable punishment for battle-scarred men.

The captain decided to admit the soldiers to the hospital under his own care. The soldiers were then given nutrients with zero calories by way of an intravenous feed and monitored for exercise.

The doctor admitted his methods were extreme, but these soldiers were going to be put out of the Army before they’d had the opportunity to retire as they’d expected, and the Army wasn’t giving them the opportunity to take the weight off on their own.

The soldiers could only be held in the hospital on the extreme weight loss plan for thirty days. Upon discharge, the service member was given a six hundred calorie-a-day food plan to follow until they reached their regulation weight requirement.

Unfortunately, concluded the doctor as he ended his story, he’d never be able to implement his unusual prescription in today’s military medicine of checks and balances. And that’s a sad thing.

I wish we had more individuals in public service who would put the needs of others first, especially for American soldiers!MAN AT WALL

About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
This entry was posted in Slice Of Life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. I have a lot of young friends who are now suffering quick discharges and hardly any preparation for return. And so many with PTSD.

    • Keith – I’m sure you have already encouraged your young friends that are receiving quick discharges to make sure their symptoms and any treatment with PTSD or any other wound, no matter how insignificant with their military physicians must be written in their record. If they are out-processing so fast, when they fill out the final paper-work I’d suggest they mark everything that’s different about themselves than when they signed up. For example – loss of hearing from being around airplane engines and driving tanks and that barely covers other activities in the field. Additionally we’re seeing many soldiers returning with light sensitivity and it’s not always connected to TBI but rather the sand blowing and the dry winds and now the soldiers have what’s called severe dry eye syndrone. The condition worsens and will cause erosion of the epidural of the corena. [I’ve been there and done that. They will need long term care and it’s very expensive] Along with the hearing – even if the hearing loss is only 10% and seems insignificant, the veteran can go back years later when his hearing has gone down hill and he needs a hearing aid and the VA will be responsible for fitting him/her with the latest state of the art equipment available. They also include the batteries. On the same form, there’s a place to mark ‘ have you ever attempted suicide.’ I know this is a hot button but my husband marked no although the opposite was true. That one question kept him from being 100% disabled with the military and thus his retirement would be tax exempt. We have gotten the disability up from the inital 10% to 55% and we started out with loss of hearing at 10%. Your friends are more than likely not going to want to buck the system and they just want to get out after all they’ve been through – but it’s worth hearing and not hearing in future years, and on down the road. The esophogus is another issue and the list goes on.

      • I have always encouraged my friends to be sure to get documentation on everything. But thanks for this process notion. I will let those who are still in know about doing a complete “inventory” to see what is there or is now missing. Very good advice.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more. I specifically remember students standing in college dormitary hallways across from the mail room drop boxes praying they wouldn’t get a draft notice on any given day.

  3. gpcox says:

    Vietnam was such an awful impact on people of my age group. A terrible war we should never have been at in the first place.

  4. Sheri, this is such a gracious act that this doctor did. Where would we all be if the soldiers were not there when we have needed them? We should be there for them when they need us.

  5. Patricia – Remember, I’m just one of the few who elects to report on the wrongs of our government. There’s actually much that’s right and I wouldn’t elect to live anywhere else in the world. Having worked in 18 countries, I elect the USA for my home. However, there are many things that aren’t right with our government, the same as with any country and I believe the people have the right to know. Therefore, the birth of my blog – From the literary and legislative trentches.

    Sometimes it will be soldiers themselves that want a way out of their military commitment, after they’ve signed the contract, they’ll put on a massive amount of weight in order to be discharged. I see this as a crime on the other side of the coin. By the time this happens, the US has spent thousands of dollars and man-hours training the individual to become a trained soldier in whatever his selected profession is. Everyone I talk with tells me, the military is not what it was even twenty years ago and I must say I agree. I was never in the military but I did work for Department of Defense for 20 years. As always, thank you for reading with me.

  6. Sheri, I am constantly shocked by revelations in your blog. The idea that these vets would be ineligible for proper retirement benefits after their service is beyond any kind of understanding. The image of America continues to tarnish … how sad. And how brave of the doctor to attempt to do the right thing in his own small way. Thank you for sharing that story.

  7. What a story of lightning the burden of another ! One person does make a difference — we see it in the Savior ~ don’t you think? thank you for sharing this wonderful story!

    • Hello Deborah – You are so right. My Savior never threatens to throw me to the street because he doesn’t need me any longer. It’s just the opposite. I turn my problems over to my Lord, and He lightens my burden and shows me the way. Thank you for putting this in the perfect context for me. I elect to believe our Lord was with each of these men when the doctor at the army hospital helped them find a way to reach retirement and hold on to the benefits they had rightfully earned.

  8. Hello Rebecca, It’s nice to see you here. The amount service members must weigh along with miminum/maximum height, and various other issues is a part of the regulations governing what makes a soldier healthy and able to perform at optimum levels. Because the military maintains the strict qualifications for every member (men and women, officer and enlisted) the requirements are considered within the norm. My guess is the standard is set out in the Code of Federal Regulations.

  9. That seems like a very unusual penalty. I wonder who instituted that, but then it was a terrible, misled time in military history.

  10. likeitiz says:

    I’m still trying to figure out if the chosen criteria for separating these soldiers is fair, reasonable, or even constitutional.

    One month is too short to get someone who is 40 lb. overweight down right away. It’s also medically dangerous.

    • The military doesn’t have to play ‘fair’ when a regulation states a service member must weigh no lower than a certain number and no higher than a certain number. If you are not at that number when it’s your time to re-enlist, the military has the right to terminate. Enlisted members sign a contract for a certain number of years but if Congress tells Department of Defense to cut the numbers, such as in the drawdown of Vietnam and the drawdown we are currently facing, then every reason is looked for to terminate contracts wherever possible. Normally if a soldier is borderline (within the 20 pound margin of being overweight) he/she will work hard to take the weight off and they will be given the opportunity to re-enlist. However, in cases where we have an immediate drawdown commanded by Congress, there’s no margin. These soldiers are picked out for almost immediate discharge.

      IMO it is unfair. Most of us are aware that food is used as a comfort the way others use alcohol and/or drugs or even sex. If a soldier asks for help in any of the other addiction realms, they automatically are assigned to an in-patient program followed with a vigorous 12-step program. They are not automatically asked to leave the military unless they have a felony charge pending against them.

      I’ll agree that 40 pounds in one month is too much weight to take off. I found the doctor’s method extreme but the men involved were facing an extreme penalty if they didn’t take the weight off. No one was expected to take off 40 pounds in one month. The doctor could only hold a soldier in the hospital for one month. Then he could place the same soldier on medical hold and send him home with instructions to report to the hospital for on-going medical therapy each work day. The on-going medical therpy included exercise, learning to eat right, family sessions, and numerous other issues.

      Fof me – this represented a win/win for the soldiers who gave their all while fighting a horrendous war in Vietnam and it allowed the United State of America to appropriately show the gratitude these men deserved.

      • likeitiz says:

        There are health complications to rapid weight loss. The body needs time to adapt. I hope they were all right.

        • We know a lot more now than we did in the late 60s and early 70s about weight loss and what happens to the physical body if weight is lost too fast. We also know new behaviors are not learned and the weight comes back almost as fast as it’s lost. The reason the doc put the soldiers in the hospital the first 30 days was so that he could monitor them individually. I look at a broader picture when I look at the risk taken here when the doc offered his services to the soldiers. They were going to be tossed out of the military without benefits and they had already served at least 16 years plus a tour in Vietnam. I still remember how many men were looking for draft deferments. Many were looking for any excuse to stay out of the military. These men served their country and now their country was ready to say good-bye to them. I’m sure you’re aware of the many veterans of Vietnam that ended up homeless and many committed suicide because they couldn’t live with the horrors of the war still playing out in their heads. With Tri-care being an option for these veterans with their retirement, they would be able to get therapy if they wanted. Yes, they would have to pay for a large chunk of it out of their pocket, but at least it was available. They’d also be able to feed their families and have hopefully enough money to get themselves going in civilian life. IMO, we need more doctors like the one that helped the few men that encountered him when they returned from Vietnam.

  11. thank you for sharing this uplifting, behind the scenes story of someone just doing the right thing for his comrades, the truth of kindness without fanfare.

  12. Sheryl says:

    What an inspiring story! It’s been very rough for so many Vietnam veterans, and it’s good to hear stories like this.

  13. jbw0123 says:

    Inspiring — one guy sees a wrong that needs right-ing, and he just does it. Showin’ us the way! I like your stories Sheri.

  14. Terry says:

    an exceptional story of how we should treat our veterans, it is such a shame how we put them to the side after all they have done for us

  15. Sheri, it’s good to hear something positive from that era. We both know there has not been a whole lot we could point to that is uplifitng regarding Vietnam. Thanks for telling us about this wonderful guy 🙂

    • Florence, I thought you might like to hear about something nice happening for the soldiers from this era. Like you, I’d never heard of one positive outcome. Now we have. I was afraid you and Patti were going to start throwing rocks at me if I didn’t find something nice to say about humanity. As always, thank you for making the time to read with me.

  16. Denise Hisey says:

    Sometimes doing the right thing is the least appreciated and honored.
    Thank you for sharing this story, Sheri. The behind-the-scenes heroes are probably so much more common than we’ll ever know. They are the ones who need to make the news headlines!

    • Wouldn’t it be nice if we could reward the every-day heroes. I’d much rather hear about them than the ones that are being investigated for illegal activities. I’ve often wondered if we gave our commanders more freedom to do what is right and allow them to think outside the box then perhaps they wouldn’t have the need to push against the boundaries in all the other areas they seem to find so destructave to their own lives and the lives of their families.

  17. Robyn Lee says:

    Wow – I have never heard this before… I assume it was effective in the long-run too. Amazing~
    Thanks for sharing dearest friend… always so much I learn here 🙂 x Love to you, Robyn

    • Robyn – I had never heard of it either and I worked in and around Department of Defense Medicine for over 20 years. Of course, the good doctor wouldn’t dare tell anyone what he had done because the method is against medical protocal. Of course the big no-no was the fact that DoD needed to trim their budget drastically, just like they do now. The first thing they always cut is personnel and their benefits. The doctor simply wanted to ensure these men were able to stay in the Army for their 20 years. With their 20 year retirement guaranteed, these men that had fought a senseless war, could retire knowing they’d receive a retirement for the remainder of their lives. It’s not much money but it’s better than no money.

  18. Wow! What a wonderful deed that doctor performed and how absolutely ludicrous that those persons having served their country for so long would have been denied “anything”.

    • Patti – I thought you might like this story. The young army captain could have lost his medical license to practice medicine had he been caught but he told Tom and I he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself if the opportunity had presented itself and he had done nothing to help the men who had fought so gallantly. In the type of investigative work I do, there’s often not a lot of happy information to pass along. When I hear something that’s true goodness, I sing from the rooftops (well, not the rooftops) but I definitely wanted to pass the information along. BTW – I love your little yellow duck!

  19. words4jp says:

    Wow. This is a very interesting story and one that we really do not hear or read much about – it seems it is always the bad that is discussed. Thank you for sharing.

    • You know, I’ve never heard one single positive good story told about treatment the soldiers coming out of Vietnam received. Granted, this young doctor could only take care of the men that appeared at his hospital but think of all the disasters he helped prevent. I definitely wanted to pass on happy news and to sing the praise for this young captain that took the chance and made sure all the men under his care went on to stay in the military long enough to receive their twenty years needed for retirement. This young Army Captain definitely deserves a white hat.

What's On Your Mind, I'd love To Know

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s