The First PTs Go to Vietnam.

Since John F. Kennedy’s inauguration as president in 1961, the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam had grown, culminating in the deployment of American ground troops in the spring of 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson. The first physical therapist on the scene was Army Medical Specialist Corps Colonel Barbara Gray, a 14-year veteran, who volunteered to go over in March 1966 to assess staff and equipment needs. Gray’s arrival marked the first time a physical therapist and commissioned officer had been assigned deliberately to an active combat zone. In all, some 47 physical therapists did tours of duty, every one of them volunteers. Most were women, although at least three men were in the group. Once assigned, they treated not only U.S. personnel, but Vietnamese military and civilians brought into U.S. Army hospitals. They also trained numbers of their Vietnamese counterparts in techniques that were then put to use in Vietnamese hospitals.

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