My wife and I have begun a book tour out West. Our first stop was in El Paso, Texas, where we stayed with my West Point classmate, Dr. Stephen P. Hetz, MD, Colonel, US Army (Retired), and his wife Mary.
One of the greatest blessings I’ve received in my life is being a member of the West Point Class of 1975. I entered the class on a stormy July 1, 1971, with no brothers of my own and graduated on a sunny day four years later with 862. They are my closest friends and have been with me through thick and thin.
Steve is a special friend. We went to through all the challenges West Point had to offer, but also got to go helicopter school after our second academic year, known as Yearling Year. We went to Fort Wolters, Texas, for instruction and logged over forty hours on the Army’s TH55 training helicopters, known affectionately as "Mattel Messerschmitts."
Years after graduation I encountered Steve again at Fort Gordon, Georgia. By then he was an Army surgeon, and my wife was in need of an appendectomy. Because of our relationship, Steve didn’t perform the surgery, but he ensured that everything went smoothly and was there for me during that stressful situation. A few months later, he was there for me again when I needed surgery and ensured that I was well taken care of.
I entitled this post “Renaissance Man” because Steve is exactly that. After graduation, he was commissioned as an Infantry officer. He graduated from Ranger School and served in the 82nd Airborne Division. Later, he participated in a highly competitive program, was selected to attend medical school, and became an Army doctor. In December 1989, as a medical doctor, he parachuted into Panama with Army Rangers as part of Operation Just Cause. That action earned him a gold star on his Master Parachutist Badge—a rare award for an Army doctor. He went on to earn a reputation as one of the Army’s outstanding surgeons. He had combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and was one of the authors of a highly regarded treatise, entitled War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: A Series of Cases, 2003-2007.
On this most recent trip, I learned that Steve has yet another talent of which I was unaware. The airplane in the picture is an experimental airplane that he built by himself while working full time as a civilian surgeon at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso. I was astounded when he described the process of assembling the plane, which he accomplished in only two years. Because the airplane is experimental, he must log forty hours before he can take passengers. He’s working toward that goal, and I look forward to the day when he flies to Georgetown, Texas, and gives me a ride.
Courage and Drive ’75!