Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Vietnam – Veteran – Veterinarian

Dr.Bowen with patient. Submitted

Dr.Bowen with patient. Submitted

by John Patterson

Hi Readers! Hope you enjoyed my story last issue. Like my buddy, John I had so much fun re-living our experiences back in the fifties. I have decided to stick around, even though I cannot be with him (I’m in Doggy Heaven), I’m still just behind him in spirit on all his deliveries, and still enjoy our time together. I know some readers will be saying “Who is Flip?” Well, you will have to log onto www.coastalbreezenews.com to read about me.

Dr. James B. Bowen, Island Animal Hospital, Marco Island.

Dr. Bowen with his wife, Donna, originates from Rhode Island, and has been practicing veterinary medicine for thirty years.

“When did I decide to be a veterinarian? I think all people, who have a strong love and concern for animals beyond the average person’s interest, consider being a veterinarian. When I was young my grandmother had lots of pets, dogs and cats. Watching me play with animals from our back porch, she would point and say, ‘That boy is going to be a veterinarian.’ At the time I never gave her prediction much thought. It was just natural to have all these pets around and love and care for them. I would take wild pigeons to school with me and at recess time the kids would be amazed at the birds and how tame they were. However, I was in Vietnam when I realized her words might be true.


I graduated from flight training school and qualified for transition training at the Cobra Helicopter School in 1969. In January 1970 I graduated as a Cobra helicopter gunship pilot. Cobra helicopters were designed exclusively as a weapons’ platform gunship. It was the first of its kind introduced in 1967, well ahead of its years, I think, because they are still flying now – 43 years later.

As a Cobra pilot, my job was to protect other helicopters in the combat area such as Medivac helicopters and provide close air support for our troops on the ground.

Veterans of the Vietnam War all have lots of stories, but one in particular comes to mind.

Toward the end of the Vietnam War the South Vietnamese Army were placed into the area of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos with the intent of disrupting the flow of North Vietnames arms and supplies to South Vietnam. On one mission, returning from Laos in support of the South Vietnamese troops, a call came through from ATC on the UHF emergency radio frequency requesting any Cobras in the area to lend assistance. An Air Force jet had been shot down by a 51-caliber machine gun and the two surviving pilots had ejected safely. They were on a hill top with small contingencies of friendly fire around them. Unfortunately, there were four North Vietnamese tanks approaching their position, and a helicopter had never attacked a tank in combat. We re-armed with armor piercing rockets, flew to the contact area, and the Forward Air Control pilot ordered us to destroy the 51-caliber machine gun prior to engaging the tanks. On our first gun run we destroyed the 51-caliber gun and then the four NVA tanks. This mission was the first time a helicopter had engaged a tank in warfare. It was a pretty big deal at the time. Subsequently, for that mission I was awarded the first of two Silver Stars. I also received the Bronze Star, 37 air medals, and 3 Distinquished Flying Crosses.

My decision to be a veterinarian was made literally while I was in Vietnam. We were returning from a routine mission. My front seat co-pilot was the company maintenance officer. He was not used to flying in a combat situation. Normally,

Cobra Helicopter.

Cobra Helicopter.

he would take helicopters out for test flights and that’s about all. We were flying over the game reserve and one of the Huey pilots, spotting a deer, suggested we should have a barbecue that night… So we proceeded, took the deer down. I watched. I have never been a hunter and it really upset me. Here I was trained to kill people-we killed a beautiful deer and I was extremely upset about it. That’s irony, I guess. At that moment, I thought about my grandmother and what she had said. I thought if I didn’t become a veterinarian then I would always think I had cheated myself. So that was the driving force that helped me make my decision. To do what I was meant to do!”

Veteran to Veterinarian:

Dr. Bowen started his first of two practices in New England, after completing his military service and veterinary education. After twenty-one years and two veterinary hospitals later, he moved to Marco Island full-time ten years ago to open Island Animal Hospital with the intent that it would be a part-time venture. Dr. Bowen says “It’s now grown to well over 2,500 clients; it’s keeping me very busy. We even have former RI clients here on Marco!”

Like many others, Dr. and Mrs. Bowen chose Marco Island to escape the New England winters. “New England was fine when we were ‘snow’ active; one of our favorite sports was downhill skiing. After damaging my knee, my skiing ended temporarily, and the winters and early springs became long and miserable. I am an outdoor person, and love boating, fishing and golf which I can now enjoy 12 months out of the year. Now we can still go skiing for a week and return to the warm Marco weather and sunshine.

We arrived on Marco and initially, I did relief work for other veterinarians between Marco Island and Cape Coral. One year later we opened Island Animal Hospital on Bald Eagle Drive, but now need larger premises for what we do. Our old location was very space confined, we had to fit in with what was there. Our new facility is more pleasant, accommodating, and far more functional. We have designed the new location specifically for our needs and it should work out very well for us. It’s a state of the art facility which our Marco and Naples clients and patients deserve. We are planning to provide more services in the future such as grooming, feline boarding and retail sales. Due to zoning constraints, we are not able to board dogs.”

Does the term animal hospital make our services any more comprehensive? “Veterinary medicine has specialists in all veterinary areas. I would be considered as a general practitioner, although I perform orthopedic surgery, if my clients can not afford a specialist. We provide dental care, in-house lab services, nutritional needs, radiology-a full service veterinary hospital. Our primary focus is to provide the best in wellness care. However, in the event our patients do become ill, we relentlessly pursue a diagnosis utilizing the most current techniques and therapies to return them to good health. Even with all the current technology available, sometimes a gentle hug and a snuggle is just what the doctor orders.”

Dr. Bowen says the move into the new premises at 860 Bald Eagle Drive, Suite 2 in the Eagle Center will be completed soon. “It’s been a busy holiday period for us, and a very exciting start for the New Year. Our staff has been invaluable, helpful and patient with all the plans and transition. We look forward to seeing our returning seasonal clients and their pets as well as all the year rounders at our new location.”

Flipping Brilliant!

One response to “Vietnam – Veteran – Veterinarian”

  1. MAXON balmforth says:

    JIM give me a call about bob Paine max BALMFORTH at 4012188003 . He is trying to reach you

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