Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Vietname’

Free Love & Free Clinics

Excerpt from biography of Dr. Arnold Leff.
Paging Dr. Leff: Pride, Patriotism & Protest.

Free Love & Free Clinics

By the time Captain Leff arrived at Wright Patterson Air Base for his last year of military service, he was a changed man. He didn’t continue fighting city hall on base, but slowly worked his way into creating an alternative city hall in the way medicine was provided in the public sector. In addition to working in the outpatient clinic from 8 to 5 at Wright Patterson, he also jumped in feet first with the fledgling Cincinnati Free Clinic in the evening. That involvement turned him around to wearing longer hair and becoming more enmeshed in the counterculture of the time.

The Cincinnati Free Clinic provided a 24 hour suicide prevention line and support for people dealing with issues of drug abuse, V.D., and birth control. It ws based on the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco that had been started by Dr. Dave Smith.

The Cincinnati clinic was instrumental in changing the laws concerning parental consent so that young people could get the confidential treatment and health education they needed. All the docs working at the free clinics were volunteers. They provided countless hours to public health services that most communities now take for granted with their county hospitals and clinics.

Dr. Leff lived in a commune on McCormick Place in Cincinnati and commuted to the base to work during the day. He grew long hair and a beard and hung out with all his old friends to listen to music at the Family Owl. He was welcomed back into the fold, a composite of musicians, hippies and anti-war activists. Few of them realized the risks he had taken to stop the illegal bombing in Laos and his battles within the military for truth and accountability.

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The Pressure Cooker

Excerpt from biography Paging Doctor Leff: Pride, Patriotism and Protest.

When Captain Leff arrived at Udorn Royal Thai Air Base in the summer of 1969, one may have thought the greatest threat to servicemen on the base was Venereal Diseases (VD), not the Viet Cong or Pathet Lao.

The dispensary had recently been upgraded to a hospital, and the brass was asking for volunteers in different areas. Arnie volunteered to be the venereal disease control officer. He had some experience with it in medical school and figured he “might as well become an expert in something, since I was going to be there for a year anyway.”

“Servicemen came to our VD program for a number of reasons,” Dr. Leff confides. “One was that I convinced them at orientation that they should see us and not get treated on the Thai open market with medications that were no good. Another reason was that I made a promise that they would not be punished for coming to see the medics with a case of VD. I made that promise based on the U. S. Air Force regulations that were very clear.”

They had an open program that encouraged men to use their services, that there would be no punitive actions, and that they would take care of them. It was free, and it was good medicine.

Because of these assurances and the fact that Dr. Leff kept accurate statistics, by December of 1969, Udorn had the highest number of recorded cases of venereal disease of any base in Southeast Asia. Some would say that was excellent news, to know that it was being reported and treated, but the hospital base commander, Col. Paul Stagg, USAF, MC, thought otherwise.

“The colonel called me into his office and said, ‘The General says we have too many cases of venereal disease this year,’ which makes him look bad. ‘I want you to change the statistics and wipe out the last few weeks of cases so it looks like we have less than we do.’

Dr. Leff replied, “But Sir, if I change these numbers, what if everybody changed numbers? What if body counts were wrong?” Stagg’s response was, “That’s the system.”

“Suddenly, like a flash of light,” Dr. Leff recalls, “the switch went on in my head. It was the first time anyone had said it so bluntly, right to my face. The extent of the lying surrounding the war inundated every sector and every branch.”

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