Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran Jonathan Benumof, who served as a doctor with a MASH unit during the Vietnam War.
Jonathan Benumof was born and raised in New York City, earning his bachelor’s degree at the City College of New York before moving to Southern California and attending the University of Southern California, School of Medicine for doctorate. During his junior year of medical school, he met his future wife, Sherrie. Benumof. He completed his medical internship at the Los Angeles County General Hospital before marrying Sherrie in July 1968.
The Army drafted Benumof in 1968. He completed basic training in three weeks at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. Benumof earned the rank of captain in August that same year. He agreed to receive on-the-job training in anesthesia and transferred to Ireland Army Hospital at Fort Knox, Kentucky, in September 1968. Benumof received his orders to go to Vietnam that November, much to his surprise, since he only had about three months of anesthesiologist training. The reasoning behind this was the military desperately needed anesthesia providers for the war. Benumof deployed to Vietnam in January 1969, where he spent the next year in combat in one of the worst areas of the war during one of the worst periods of the war, the 1969 Tet offensive.
During that horrific year, Benumof witnessed many horrors while serving in the 18th Mobile Army Surgical (MASH) Unit. One of the few things that gave him hope for surviving were the letters that his wife wrote to him. They kept his sanity intact through the grueling nights and long days, expressing eternal love and salvation. Benumof used these letters to motivate him until his eventual homecoming.
Benumof received a Bronze Star and also a Purple Heart for a head injury he suffered during a rocket attack on his MASH Unit’s Operating Room. He later wrote a book about his experiences, titled “Letters from the Heart: A Young Army Doctor’s 1969 Vietnam War Experience.”
After the war, Benumof settled down with his wife in San Diego, California, becoming one of the most renowned anesthesiologists in the world. He has been practicing for over 40 years at the University of California San Diego.
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Writer: Alex Boucher
Editor: Katherine Berman and Katie Wang
Fact checker: Ileana Rodrigues
Graphic artist: Grace Young