PDT Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC) held its annual Veterans Day Celebration on Monday with Dr. Johnny Ray Bernard, Jr. as the event’s keynote speaker.
Bernard is a former US Army Major and currently serves as the Senior Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at the SOMC Cancer Center.
“We are celebrating veterans today, a veteran is anyone who who has served for any length of time in any branch of military service” Bernard said. “I decided to go into military service when I was a kid, my uncle was in the Army and would come home with stories of places he’s visited throughout the world. Listening to him and his experiences made me want to give back to my country.”
Bernard said he had plans to join the military after high school and it took him until medical school to decide to join.
“So I finished medical school did an internship and residency then I got stationed at Brooke Army Medical Center. I had little experience in the military at that point and did not know who to salute or any customs,” Bernard said. “As I was ending my military service I felt ashamed to be called a veteran when I had not gone anywhere in the world or served in combat. I felt like I was not deserving of the term veteran. As I was ending my training, I sat down with an older patient of mine who had prior military experience. We got to talking and he discovered I felt a little ashamed of this military term.
“He said ‘Son, how many years of education and training did you get after you finished high school. I responded about 14 years. He said, the military holds education, training and experience very high. He said you deserve to be an officer, don’t ever be ashamed of that.’”
Bernard said later in the conversation the patient asked how many radiation oncologists there were in the military. Bernard guessed between 18 and 22 people.
“He then told me, ‘Son, you possess a very special skill set, in the whole United States Military there are only 18-22 of you. He said don’t ever be ashamed of that,’” Bernard said. “From that day on, I was never ashamed to say I have served my country.”
Also taking part in the service were members of the the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility Color Guard, East Junior Madrigals, and the Portsmouth West high School Choir.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org.