Leaving a legacy

In Memoriam: Edward M. Feldman, DO, trailblazing military physician

Dr. Feldman was one of the first DOs to serve in the U.S. Navy as a physician.

Editor’s note: Edward M. Feldman, DO, was one of the first DOs to serve in the U.S. Navy as a physician and was nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in Vietnam in 1968. The following remembrance was submitted by Timothy Kowalski, DO.

Edward Michael Feldman, DO, passed on Oct. 3, 2017. An intensely patriotic man, he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. For his service, he was awarded a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars and nominated for the Congressional Medal of Honor. He is the first and only DO to be nominated for the highest award given for valor in action.

Heroic display of courage

The nomination came following a particularly heroic display of courage on Dr. Feldman’s part: In September 1968, as a triage officer at the Marine medical facility in Quang Tri, near the DMZ, Dr. Feldman was airlifted to the edge of a violent firefight where wounded soldiers needed medical assistance.

Edward M. Feldman, DO, shakes hands with Gen. Raymond G. Davis, USMC, after receiving a Silver Star Medal for removing an unexploded North Vietnamese mortar shell from the abdominal cavity of a Marine in Khe Sanh, Vietnam. (Photo previously provided by Dr. Feldman)

From where he was dropped off, Dr. Feldman could see a column of Armored Calvary Assault Vehicles a short distance away being violently attacked by a battalion-sized North Vietnamese force, firing automatic weapons and launching rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells. Heedless of the enemy’s small-arms fire, Dr. Feldman rushed to the head of the column of assault vehicles. Dr. Feldman worked his way down the column, attending to the wounded and encouraging the men, all the while exposing himself to steady enemy fire moving from assault vehicle to assault vehicle, returning fire as he maneuvered.

Two additional armored track vehicles, immobilized at the top of a hill, were covering the column’s flank with .50 caliber machine gun fire to prevent the column being overrun by the enemy, while at the same time repelling an enemy attack of their position from Viet Cong soldiers advancing up the hill from the South. After making his way down the entire column of assault vehicles and back, Dr. Feldman recognized there was an attrition of Command Leadership during the ambush.

As the senior ranking officer on the ground, Dr. Feldman took tactical command. Not only did he provide defensive aggression against the enemy in protecting himself and his wounded soldiers, Dr. Feldman provided command leadership, directing the armored vehicles to move to the top of the hill, where he guided the men in forming a defensive perimeter. Within that perimeter Dr. Feldman treated the wounded, many of whom had gone into hypovolemic shock. Those who were expectant were administered morphine to ease their suffering. Once the wounded were stabilized and there was a small break in the weather, Dr. Feldman had the soldiers clear a landing zone where he called for a Chinook helicopter to evacuate all the wounded and dead at one time.

Remarkably, rather than departing on the medevac with the wounded, Dr. Feldman chose to stay on the ground overnight, where his leadership and encouragement were needed most. He remained with the unit until senior army leadership replaced him the next day.

A life in medicine

Following his tour in Vietnam, Dr. Feldman completed his residency training in obstetrics and gynecology at the former New Jersey College of Medicine and Dentistry University Hospital, where he went on to serve as an assistant professor. In 1980, he moved to California, where he was an associate professor at Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific in Pomona, California. He was board-certified in ob-gyn in California, where he also ran a practice focused on gynecologic surgery until his retirement.

Dr. Feldman earned his BS degree at Columbia University and his DO degree at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Following his military service, he served as a subject matter expert for SOCOM (Marine Corps Special Operations Command, Detachment One), vice chairman of the California Department of Veteran Affairs, and national surgeon of the Jewish War Veterans of America.

Dr. Feldman is survived by his wife, Patricia, and his children, Stuart (Carol), David (Erin) and Jessica Grunvald (Dan), and his seven grandchildren: Carly, Ally, Sophia, Dahlia, Luca, Jordan and Preston. He is predeceased by his parents, Sid and Ann, and his brother, John.

    4 comments

    1. Dr. Feldman is the reason I was able to marry the love of my life, Cliff Treese. This wonderful man saved my husband’s life in Vietnam. We spoke a few months back and he asked me to write him a short history of mine and Cliff’s story. I thought I would have more time to do that, but there were bigger plans for Dr. Feldman.

    2. As I was leaving the hotel this morning, a doorman asked me, “Where are you bound for, General?” And when I replied, “West Point,” he remarked, “Beautiful place. Have you ever been there before?”

      No human being could fail to be deeply moved by such a tribute as this [Thayer Award]. Coming from a profession I have served so long, and a people I have loved so well, it fills me with an emotion I cannot express. But this award is not intended primarily to honor a personality, but to symbolize a great moral code — the code of conduct and chivalry of those who guard this beloved land of culture and ancient descent. That is the animation of this medallion. For all eyes and for all time, it is an expression of the ethics of the American soldier. That I should be integrated in this way with so noble an ideal arouses a sense of pride and yet of humility which will be with me always

      Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.

      Unhappily, I possess neither that eloquence of diction, that poetry of imagination, nor that brilliance of metaphor to tell you all that they mean.

      The unbelievers will say they are but words, but a slogan, but a flamboyant phrase. Every pedant, every demagogue, every cynic, every hypocrite, every troublemaker, and I am sorry to say, some others of an entirely different character, will try to downgrade them even to the extent of mockery and ridicule.

      But these are some of the things they do: They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation’s defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid. They teach you to be proud and unbending in honest failure, but humble and gentle in success; not to substitute words for actions, not to seek the path of comfort, but to face the stress and spur of difficulty and challenge; to learn to stand up in the storm but to have compassion on those who fall; to master yourself before you seek to master others; to have a heart that is clean, a goal that is high; to learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; to reach into the future yet never neglect the past; to be serious yet never to take yourself too seriously; to be modest so that you will remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. They give you a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a freshness of the deep springs of life, a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of an appetite for adventure over love of ease. They create in your heart the sense of wonder, the unfailing hope of what next, and the joy and inspiration of life. They teach you in this way to be an officer and a gentleman.

      And what sort of soldiers are those you are to lead? Are they reliable? Are they brave? Are they capable of victory? Their story is known to all of you. It is the story of the American man-at-arms. My estimate of him was formed on the battlefield many, many years ago, and has never changed. I regarded him then as I regard him now — as one of the world’s noblest figures, not only as one of the finest military characters, but also as one of the most stainless. His name and fame are the birthright of every American citizen. In his youth and strength, his love and loyalty, he gave all that mortality can give.

      He needs no eulogy from me or from any other man. He has written his own history and written it in red on his enemy’s breast. But when I think of his patience under adversity, of his courage under fire, and of his modesty in victory, I am filled with an emotion of admiration I cannot put into words. He belongs to history as furnishing one of the greatest examples of successful patriotism. He belongs to posterity as the instructor of future generations in the principles of liberty and freedom. He belongs to the present, to us, by his virtues and by his achievements. In 20 campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved his statue in the hearts of his people. From one end of the world to the other he has drained deep the chalice of courage.

      As I listened to those songs [of the glee club], in memory’s eye I could see those staggering columns of the First World War, bending under soggy packs, on many a weary march from dripping dusk to drizzling dawn, slogging ankle-deep through the mire of shell-shocked roads, to form grimly for the attack, blue-lipped, covered with sludge and mud, chilled by the wind and rain, driving home to their objective, and for many, to the judgment seat of God.

      I do not know the dignity of their birth, but I do know the glory of their death. They died unquestioning, uncomplaining, with faith in their hearts, and on their lips the hope that we would go on to victory. Always, for them: Duty, Honor, Country; always their blood and sweat and tears, as we sought the way and the light and the truth.

      And 20 years after, on the other side of the globe, again the filth of murky foxholes, the stench of ghostly trenches, the slime of dripping dugouts; those boiling suns of relentless heat, those torrential rains of devastating storms; the loneliness and utter desolation of jungle trails; the bitterness of long separation from those they loved and cherished; the deadly pestilence of tropical disease; the horror of stricken areas of war; their resolute and determined defense, their swift and sure attack, their indomitable purpose, their complete and decisive victory — always victory. Always through the bloody haze of their last reverberating shot, the vision of gaunt, ghastly men reverently following your password of: Duty, Honor, Country.

      The code which those words perpetuate embraces the highest moral laws and will stand the test of any ethics or philosophies ever promulgated for the uplift of mankind. Its requirements are for the things that are right, and its restraints are from the things that are wrong.

      The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training — sacrifice.

      In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image. No physical courage and no brute instinct can take the place of the Divine help which alone can sustain him.

      However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.

      You now face a new world — a world of change. The thrust into outer space of the satellite, spheres, and missiles mark the beginning of another epoch in the long story of mankind. In the five or more billions of years the scientists tell us it has taken to form the earth, in the three or more billion years of development of the human race, there has never been a more abrupt or staggering evolution. We deal now not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier.

      We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us; of creating unheard synthetic materials to supplement or even replace our old standard basics; to purify sea water for our drink; of mining ocean floors for new fields of wealth and food; of disease preventatives to expand life into the hundreds of years; of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine; of space ships to the moon; of the primary target in war, no longer limited to the armed forces of an enemy, but instead to include his civil populations; of ultimate conflict between a united human race and the sinister forces of some other planetary galaxy; of such dreams and fantasies as to make life the most exciting of all time.

      And through all this welter of change and development, your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable: it is to win our wars.

      Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment. But you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory; that if you lose, the nation will be destroyed; that the very obsession of your public service must be: Duty, Honor, Country.

      Others will debate the controversial issues, national and international, which divide men’s minds; but serene, calm, aloof, you stand as the Nation’s war-guardian, as its lifeguard from the raging tides of international conflict, as its gladiator in the arena of battle. For a century and a half you have defended, guarded, and protected its hallowed traditions of liberty and freedom, of right and justice.

      Let civilian voices argue the merits or demerits of our processes of government; whether our strength is being sapped by deficit financing, indulged in too long, by federal paternalism grown too mighty, by power groups grown too arrogant, by politics grown too corrupt, by crime grown too rampant, by morals grown too low, by taxes grown too high, by extremists grown too violent; whether our personal liberties are as thorough and complete as they should be. These great national problems are not for your professional participation or military solution. Your guidepost stands out like a ten-fold beacon in the night: Duty, Honor, Country.

      You are the leaven which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation’s destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds. The Long Gray Line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses thundering those magic words: Duty, Honor, Country.

      This does not mean that you are war mongers.

      On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.

      But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of all philosophers: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”1

      The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished, tone and tint. They have gone glimmering through the dreams of things that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears, and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen vainly, but with thirsty ears, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll. In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful mutter of the battlefield.

      But in the evening of my memory, always I come back to West Point.

      Always there echoes and re-echoes: Duty, Honor, Country.

      Today marks my final roll call with you, but I want you to know that when I cross the river my last conscious thoughts will be of The Corps, and The Corps, and The Corps.

      I bid you farewell.

      General Douglas MacArthur
      West Point 1962

    3. I was saddened to read of the passage of Ed Feldman. Our paths crossed briefly in Mt. Clemens, Michigan where I was a resident in internal medicine and Ed was an intern doing a rotation.I deem it a privilege and honor to have known this brave marine . My condolences to the family . May he rest in peace ; he was a true American hero.

    4. I read of Dr.Feldman’s heroic activities while I was a student at KCU,but had no idea of the extent of his heroism.The fotos of him showed a young and vibrant osteopathic physician who represented the best example of a patriotic,brave,and selfless American,who in my eyes will remain forever young.RIP. Harvey A.Drapkin,DO

    Leave a comment Please see our comment policy