For 40 years, Mike Young's father was a doctor for the Jamestown community. When graduating from Jamestown High School in 1964, it is of little surprise that Young chose to enter into the medical profession by enrolling at Central Missouri State College in Warrensburg. Little did he realize that a pause in his educational endeavors would soon come from the U.S. Army and inspire a 37-year military career.
"I graduated from Central Missouri State with my bachelor of science in biology and minor in chemistry in 1969," he recalled. "Then I was drafted into the U.S. Army."
Grinning, he added, "That was almost as big a shock as receiving my AARP card when I turned 50."
Arriving at Fort Leonard Wood in September 1969, he spent the next several weeks undergoing basic combat training and witnessed the Army's transition from the M-14 to the M-16 rifles. At the end of his training cycle, while awaiting his security clearance, Young was retained as part of the training cadre at the fort.
He explained, "They eventually sent me to training to become a wheeled vehicle mechanic, and then I became part of the cadre for that training unit," he said. "Finally, I was transferred to the replacement center at Fort Riley and was approached by the commander of a medical battalion who was there searching for a company clerk."
Assigned to Company C, 1st Medical Battalion, Young was bounced between several roles that included lab worker, medic and, at times, vehicle mechanic. While a member of the battalion, he deployed to Germany in the fall of 1970 and participated in Reforger II--a multi-national military training exercise.
"It was a great way to see Germany, and my company stopped at certain sites to provide medical support to units involved in the training exercise," he said.
After completing his two-year commitment to the U.S. Army in September 1971, Young received his discharge and soon married his fiancée, Mary, with whom he raised four children. He also chose to continue his pursuit of a medical career when being accepted into the Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine.
He remarked, "While I was in college, a friend invited me to visit his Army Reserve unit in Columbia during one of their drill weekends. It was the 5503rd U.S. Army Reserve Hospital, and I ended up joining them and stayed in the unit for 35 years."
Following his graduation from medical school, Young completed his internship in Kansas City in addition to working two years in internal medicine in Jefferson City. Additionally, he completed a fellowship at the University of Missouri and specialized in kidney disease, eventually setting up his private practice in Jefferson City.
The next few decades provided additional military experiences for Young, often requiring that he carefully balance the workload of his medical responsibilities along with his commitments to both family and the Army Reserve.
"I have been to Germany four times, Korea, Honduras and Alaska with the Army Reserve," he said. "During Desert Storm, I was mobilized along with a group of medical professionals and ended up helping run the hospital at Fort Leonard Wood."
He humorously added, "I have been at Fort Leonard Wood both as a private and as a colonel. I can assure you that I was treated much better as a colonel."
Another important milestone came more than a decade later, when he was mobilized as a result of the Global War on Terrorism.
In 2004, Young deployed to Afghanistan and was assigned to the Kabul Compound Medical Clinic. Despite being in a combat zone where he and other medical professionals treated wounds and injuries, he was able to enjoy some interesting experiences with physicians from other countries.
"The different medical units on the compound would conduct symposiums on various medical-related subjects," Young recalled. "This included the Turkish, Norwegians, Spanish, Romanians and Canadians. Some of the subjects and medical views of the different nations were very interesting and then we got to eat in their mess halls and experience some of their cuisines."
In 2006, not long after his return from Afghanistan, Young retired from the Army Reserve at the rank of colonel and with 37 years of military service to his credit. For the next few years, he continued in his practice of medicine, retiring in 2016.
A life member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Young made the decision to volunteer with the Central Missouri Honor Flight a few years ago as a doctor accompanying a group of veterans on one of their trips to Washington, D.C.
There are many reasons why a person chooses to serve in the armed forces, but as Young acknowledges, his initial service was motivated by Uncle Sam's mandate. But in later years, he enjoyed the financial boost that came with serving in the Reserves.
"When I was drafted, that was a requirement that I had to complete, and I made the best of it," he said. "A few years later, when I joined the Army Reserve, the extra income it offered was very helpful in paying off my student loans from medical school."
In conclusion, he added, "I got to meet a lot of good people and travel to a lot of wonderful places. Also, I was fortunate to have a lot of good doctors and medical staff who covered me during these absences, which is greatly appreciated."
Jeremy P. Ämick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.