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Army Doctor Risks Career To Oppose War

An Army doctor who served as a member of the staff of Your Military Left, which is published by GIs at Fort Sam Houston, has placed his medical career in jeopardy in order to oppose the war. A statement from Captain Irvin S. Roger was read at the public forum sponsored by Fort Sam GIs as part of the October 15 Vietnam Moratorium.
Roger is on orders for Vietnam as a battalion surgeon. In his statement, he declared that he would send all casualties to the rear, refusing to return anyone to action, no matter how slightly wounded.

In spite of the fact that his actions could prevent him from ever practicing medicine in civilian life, Roger stuck to his guns and on October l9 sent the following telegram to President Nixon:

“My family and I publicly implore you to help save my medical career. I am an Army Captain on orders to Vietnam as a general medical officer. Two years of soul-searching have led to the conviction that I cannot justify the death of a single soldier in Vietnam. I have been told that my future as a doctor is at stake for Publicizing my views but the Hippocratic Oath enjoins me to place my patients' welfare ahead of my own. I feel that cooperation in returning wounded men to fighting units would violate this oath and compromise my moral convictions.

“If my orders are not changed I will be in an untenable position. If I obey orders as directed the term `doctor' will be forever meaningless. Yet if I act according to the dictates of my conscience I risk increased casual ties due to decreased morale and efficiency in my assigned unit.

“I will not violate my conscience and send men forward. I dare not lessen morale of men facing needless death in RVN.

“I could solve the dilemna [sic] by leaving the country, but then I could never help realize the true potential for good which is unique to America.

“Mr. Nixon, I want to use my talents to help my country and I am not trying to avoid an unfavorable assignment as only ten doctors have been killed in Vietnam. I only ask that you help me, sir, without violating those principles upon which I have based my medical career and moral convictions.”

No reply or reaction to the telegram or Roger's public statement was received, and on October 22 Roger left Fort Sam Houston for Travis AFB, on his way to Vietnam.

GI Press Service, vol. 1, no. 10

 

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