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Book details
  • SubGenre:Military
  • Language:English
  • Pages:214
  • eBook ISBN:9781098326685
  • Paperback ISBN:9781098326678

Welcome Home From Vietnam, Finally

A Vietnam Trauma Surgeon's Memoir

by Gus Kappler MD

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I served as an Army trauma surgeon at the 85th Evacuation Hospital, Phu Bai, Vietnam, '70-'71. Into our emergency room were intermittently deposited the wounded, some grievous others not, by the daredevil Dust Off medieval pilots who risked imminent death with each mission. We routinely witnessed the devastation of war on the body, mind, and soul. The corpsmen, technicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgeons explored every known and out-of-the-box technique to salvage life and limb. If the wounded arrived alive at the 85th, he had a 95% chance of survival. It was and still is that 5% whose injuries were so severe or whose blood loss could not be stemmed that haunt us today. That's PTS. By storytelling for fifty years since returning to the US in late August 1971, I have avoided the (D) and mollified my demons. The intense emotions during my traumatic experience have softened greatly but, I am back in Vietnam on a daily basis. In 2015 I compiled my stories into Welcome Home From Vietnam, Finally, A Vietnam Trauma Surgeon's Memoir. It is gripping, honest, real-life, and disturbing. Then we realize that the 58,000+ lives lost did not change a thing. No dominos fell and Vietnam is now our close trading partner. They have been gracious victors.


"Welcome Home..." follows my high-school sweetheart, Robin, and I from 1957 to 2015 - How we coped with my residency at the Medical College of Virginia, my inevitable deployment to Vietnam, and my return as a permanently changed Gus. The horrific battlefield injuries are shown in graphic photos; our surgical approaches demonstrated; our, at times, juvenile antics admitted; and our emotional state is explored.

I've lived, studied, and researched PTS(D). I now understand that when we were "partying" with booze and weed, we were actually self-medicating to numb recognition of the demons. That process continues today as there exists an epidemic of active duty military and veteran PTS(D), substance abuse, and suicide. I address these issues in this book's appendices but have more current information on the book's web site. Our nation must shift their concentration from treating PTS(D) as a developed disorder and initiate the PREVENTIVE approach I propose PRIOR to discharge. If prevention by vaccination is the answer to Covid-19 why not apply the same principle to PTS(D)?

About the author
Gus Kappler was born on February 8, 1940, at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York. He grew up in Lake Ronkonkoma and graduated from Port Jefferson High School in 1957. There he began dating Robin Viverito whom he would marry on June 29, 1963, in St. John the Baptist RC Church in Wading River, LI. NY. He graduated, having been selected for Honors Research in Chemistry, from Cornell University with a BA in 1961. Gus then attended Cornell University Medical College in New York City and received his MD in 1965. That was followed by a grueling five years of surgical training at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond. Having been drafted by the Army for active duty (Vietnam) in 1965, he was given a deferment which allowed him to complete his residency in 1970. Following basic training at Fort Sam Huston, he said goodbye to Robin, Kim, and six-month-old Chris at the Dallas Airport to begin his yearlong service as a trauma surgeon at the 85th Evacuation Hospital, Phu Bai, Vietnam on September 7, 1970. Gus endured twelve months witnessing the devastation of war on the body, mind, and soul on hundreds of very young men. Surgical procedures to save lives were at times mutilating. These experiences are documented in his first book, a memoir, "Welcome Home From Vietnam, Finally." It includes discussions of PTS, Agent Orange, and the disgraceful treatment of returning Veterans by the public, the federal government, and the VA System. Gus's second duty station was at Fort Carson, Colorado. There he bonded and shared with other medical personnel just home from Vietnam. His PTS improved by dealing with his demons aided by a rock-solid Robin. PTS may be lifelong. To this day, Gus defuses recurrent anger, hopelessness, and guilt by storytelling and lecturing on the etiology and prevention of PTS. Following discharge on July 28, 1972, he pursued a successful surgical practice in Amsterdam, New York, Exit 27 on the NYS Thruway in the rural Mohawk River Valley. Gus retired in 2000. He and Robin then began to winter in New York City. During those five months from 2000 to 2015, he facilitated (taught) first-year medical students at Weill Cornell Medicine in basic medical science. He received several Excellence in Teaching awards from WCM. Gus has been a veteran advocate since 1972. He currently lectures on battlefield trauma comparing Vietnam with current hostilities and the etiology and possible prevention of PTS, substance abuse, and suicide in active duty military and veterans. "Welcome Home From Vietnam, Finally" was well received as authentic; describing and illustrating the ugly truth about war. He has also published "One Degree," an historical medical mystery thriller that begins in 1971 Vietnam and concludes with an abdicating presidential candidate in 1988. Gus enjoys being creative in designing his several web sites, photographically capturing scenes from hiking and deer hunting in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, and travel. For a time he painted in oils from his many photographs of NYC, the landscapes of NY, and Europe. He derives much satisfaction in pursuing innovative approaches in training his young English Setter pointer. Gus is very involved in shotgun sports and bird hunting. Currently, Gus is sequestered in Amsterdam, NY with his wife, Robin, of 57 years. Their son Chris and daughter Kim enjoy their happy and healthy families.