Retired Colonel Closes Medical Practice to Serve in Iraq
(February 10, 2009)
Retired Army Col. (Dr.)
Lionel M. Nelson, Task Force 449 brigade
surgeon, assists soldiers during a mass casualty
training exercise in Baghdad, Jan. 8, 2009.
Nelson is a civilian doctor who closed his
practice for 90 days to help in Iraq.
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq, Feb. 6, 2009
Retired Army Col. (Dr.) Lionel M. Nelson
returned to military service after a five-year retirement to
make a medical contribution in Iraq.
The former Air Force reservist and
retired Army reservist shut down his private practice in San
Jose, Calif., to participate in “90 Days Boots on the
Ground,” an Army Reserve program that gives former military
doctors the opportunity to deploy to Iraq for 90 days.
Nelson deployed with Task Force 449, the North Carolina
National Guard's 449th Theater Aviation Brigade, which is in
charge of Multinational Division Center's combat aviation
As the brigade surgeon, Nelson supervises the medical
components of the task force
and advises the commander on medical- and
clinical-related issues in country. He also is
responsible for the health of aviators and flies
with them to monitor the stress level of pilots.
“I truly enjoy the people in TF 449 and
their spirit to get the mission done,” Nelson said. “I enjoy
working with people who have such pride in serving their
country and am glad to say that I help to take care of
America's heroes.” |
Nelson has served in the armed services since 1970, with a
break in service from 1972 to 1984. During his time in the
Army Reserve, Nelson deployed to Southeast Asia with special
operations and civil affairs units and assisted with
During a humanitarian mission to Haiti in 1994, Nelson
started a medical technician school to train people to
repair medical equipment.
“I wanted to be able to make a long-term difference,” Nelson
said. “A lot of the countries receive donations of medical
equipment and can only use it once because when it breaks
down, no one knows how to fix it.”
Nelson also helped to repair infrastructures and assisted
with sanitation and medical issues in Southeast Asia.
“One of my biggest goals was to make sure that we not only
helped while we were there, but we also wanted to make sure
they continued to benefit from our efforts after our
departure,” Nelson said.
Nelson attended Yale Medical School and completed his
surgical training at Stanford University Medical School,
where he currently serves on the clinical faculty.
In addition to a private practice, Nelson also has several
patents on surgical devices that he invented; he started a
company to develop one of them. He sold the company about
five months before his deployment.
“I have wanted to rejoin the Army and do my part ever since
9/11, but could not because of my commitments to the
investors in my company,” Nelson explained. “The sale
allowed me to finally fulfill that desire to again serve my
Nelson urges other doctors with a military background to
consider taking advantage of the Reserve program.
“It is very possible to close up shop for 90 days,” Nelson
said. “It's an unforgettable experience, and cannot be
Army Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall
American Forces Press Service
Army Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall serves in
the Multinational Division Center's public affairs office as
part of the North Carolina National Guard's 449th Theater
Forces Press Service / DoD
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