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A Veteran's Voice: Dr. John Giddings

Posted at 7:18 AM, Jul 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 10:18:03-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Dr. John Giddings graduated from Fresno State in 1961 and went on to medical school at UC Irvine.

A couple years later., he began his first practice in Southeast Asia as a flight surgeon.

It was a deployment Giddings still remembers vividly and he has a sharp memory of Vietnam.

He says after graduating from medical school and finishing his internship, the military was in desperate need of medical personnel.

He wasn't looking for a fight, so after he was drafted he volunteered for the Marines.

Giddings was shipped off to El Toro and landed in Da Nang in October of 1967.

He was assigned to the HMM 163rd squadron as a flight surgeon aboard an H-34 Medivac helicopter.

In 13 months Giddings was on hundreds of flights including 60 combat missions.

His first flight was a landing zone near the DMZ, and it didn't get any easier with many of his missions during the siege at Khe Sahn under fire.

There were plenty of tense moments like pulling wounded off "The Rockpile."

Doc has several albums filled with pictures of the places and people he met during his time in country.

Giddings landed in Bakersfield about 10 years ago, joining another group last fall when he took part in the Honor Flight.

Calling it an outstanding experience, he got to take part in the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and rubbing elbows with the army's old guard.

Like the feeling wounded Marines had in 1968 when the call went out for a Medivac in a hot landing zone.

"When you're out of ammo. You're out of food. You're out of water and you're surrounded by the enemy. And you hear the choppers coming," said Giddings.

It's a sound he still hears today during reunions he attends with Vietnam helicopter crews every two years.

Giddings said the reunions began with about 2,000 people, now the numbers have declined a bit with 12-to-1,500 making the trip.

And he's in pre-flight right now for another reunion taking place in sParks, Nevada, next month.