In my 50 years of living in the wild west with many excursions to innumerable places throughout the Republic of Texas, I never once visited the army base named after the first President of Texas, Sam Houston.
While traveling with an old friend, Tom Dorgan, to San Antonio, we stopped to visit his daughter who is stationed at Fort Sam Houston Army Base. Our casual intent was to attend an on-base soccer tournament between the brigades. My pal’s daughter is one of the stellar performers in the tourney, and very possibly a future soccer player for the Army squad. Little did I know what an enlightening experience I would have during our leisure time between matches.
At first glance, this may not appear to be a localized story were it not for the abiding faith I have in our Armed Forces to protect us in any locale, whatever the need, including natural disasters, internal unrest, and charitable aid to nations. It is our collective humanity that speaks through the young men and women who are the fruits of the training at Fort Sam Houston.
Fort Sam Houston has been the home of soldiers defending our nation for over a century. Prior to World War II, this was the largest base in the nation, and the home of Eisenhower and Patton. Military aviation was born here in 1910. In 1917, General Pershing housed 427 Chinese refugees from Mexico here, and subsequently employed them on the base. In 1921, the Chinese were granted legal residency in the United States. (There may be a modern day message here.) It is now the home of the U.S. Army Medical Department Regiment where much of the training for the Armed Forces is accomplished.
The U.S. Army Medical Department was formed on July 27th, 1775 when the Continental Congress authorized a medical service for an Army of 20,000. It created the Hospital Department, and named Dr. Benjamin Church of Boston the first Director General. In 1818, Congress passed an act establishing the role of Surgeon General, marking the beginning of the Medical Department of the Army.There was no formal regimental organization until WWI. In the 1950′s, the brigade replaced the regiment as a tactical unit.
The U.S. Army Medical Department Regiment was activated on July 28th, 1986 bringing together training for the Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard, contributing to the Total Army concept.
The Army Medical Department Museum is an eye opener for the average civilian. While this museum depicts the history of military medicine from 1775 to the present, it simultaneously provides a glimpse of the history of science and technology from the inception of the Republic. It’s archival, photographic, and reference materials are par excellence.
Without the work of Army medicine and research, we would not have had such rapid control of typhoid and typhus and smallpox, and very possibly not experienced the current level of world trade and travel. Infection control, water purification, use of penicillin, ether, and x-rays all had their test runs in the United States Army.
The storage of blood, and the understanding and correlations of weather and health had their genesis in Army Medical Specialties, both of which contribute to a readiness for any eventual mass casualty or disruption of nature.
Technology is clearly a force multiplier, and every citizen of this nation in every state of the nation is a beneficiary of the training and skills imparted at Fort Sam Houston.
The history of the Army may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I do sleep well after touring this base, meeting the men and women who serve our nation in the capacity of nurses, combat medics, veterinarians, medical doctors, and the myriad support medical services. The esprit de corps of these soldiers from ages 17-60 is most impressive. Even for an old Marine!
Carry on Soldier!