Only at Emory: By Way of the Road Less Traveled…

by Dr. Charles MacNeill, M.D.


In 1972, I was honorably discharged from the US Army, skilled as a linguist in Vietnamese (Northern dialect), translator of purloined public health documents, and a field-hardened code breaker, all courtesy of the Army and National Security agencies. In April of that year, after three-and-a-half years of Army service, my wife and I left Fort Meade, Maryland, and moved back to my home, Decatur, Georgia. Plans for our future were made and changed many times prior to my discharge. Little did I know the major role Emory would play in my life thereafter.

The year 1968 would prove to be a miserable one for the United States, but for me, I thought it started out just fine. I was finishing my senior year of college and in January became engaged to be married. In March, I was accepted into the MBA program at Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania, and named a Joseph Wharton Fellow, with full tuition and living expense stipend to boot; my future looked quite secure. In May, I graduated from Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd College) with a degree in mathematics and immediately found an excellent summer job to finance the upcoming honeymoon scheduled for August. In late July, I attended an early orientation course at Wharton and leased an apartment just off campus. The draft notice arrived one week before the wedding date; that morning, we had been in Decatur obtaining a marriage license. I panicked. We decided to go through with wedding plans knowing the church would be full. I understood that in 1968, every draftee was sent to Vietnam following basic and advanced training, and though not an active anti-war demonstrator, I had no real desire to go. The army recruiter at the Ponce de Leon military depot in Atlanta was very convincing. For an extra two years service, four years in all, he would make very sure my new wife and I would spend three years in Germany. At the end of basic training, my orders were to proceed to Vietnamese Language School, and I knew something was amiss…

Read the full article on Dr. MacNeill’s journey here.

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