This week KCBD would like to honor 92-year-old John A. Buesseler as our "Hometown Hero." He is a three-war veteran who has served the Lubbock community, just as much as he served overseas.
While he isn't a native of the South Plains, Buesseler moved to Lubbock in 1970 when he became the founding dean for the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center School of Medicine, but his medical career started decades ago, with World War II.
"I became involved in WWII when a classmate of mine from high school, a really close friend, was killed. His ship was torpedoed by German submarines. I went down to the recruiting office and told the sergeant they can't do this to us," Buesseler said. "He said since I was a medical student he'd put me in the reserves and said we'll pull the string when we need you. In a year they pulled the string."
Buesseler was off to Europe, but since it was the tail end of the war, he saw little action. He helped police the American zone in Germany and looked after German prisoners of war, among other things.
In 1947 Buesseler returned to the U.S. along with thousands of other medical students searching for residencies at the best universities. He was accepted, along with only one other person, to the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. With an abundance of applicants, universities weren't paying their medical students for the hours of residency work.
"To get by I sold blood and joined the Pennsylvania International Guard. This just indicates that even though I graduated third in my class, I'm a slow learner. I joined the military again, and what happened? The Korean War," he laughed. "I was back in uniform, but this time in blue for the Air Force."
Buesseler had no more than finished his residency when he was called back into action. As part of the 111th medical group for the 111th Bombardment crew, Buesseler was one of the fortunate ones and never made it to Korea. Some of his buddies weren't that lucky.
"The bad thing about that war for me was…" he paused holding back tears. "We lost a total of eight B-29's from the 111th Bombardment crew. All were WWII veterans, just shot down no recovery."
In 1953 his second war was done. With a specialization in Ophthalmology, Buesseler started his own private practice and worked for a university in Missouri. As soon as he was appointed the founding dean for TTUHSC, he was once again thrust into war.
A project put together by Buesseler was approved by the U.S. Department of Defense. "I was appointed the chief investigator for operation analysis of aeromedivac in Vietnam," he said. "I spent time flying in helicopters picking up sick and wounded."
Finally after three months, Buesseler was back, and this time for good. "I think I have five honorable discharge certificates," he laughed.
He is a true hero in every sense, with a lifetime of helping people during war and here at home.
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