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Left to right: CDT Katelyn Stice, CDT Kyle Elliott, Dr. Carlos Risco, Dr. Mark Bohannon, CDT Christopher Smith and CDT Reagan Page.

Honoring Veterans in 2019

Monday, November 18, 2019

In honor of veterans and especially military veterinarians, Oklahoma State University College of Veterinary Medicine hosted a Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 11, 2019. Mark Bohannon, DVM, MPHTM, DACVPM, class of 1988 alumnus and U.S. Army veteran, presented “Thoughts on Veterans Day.”  

“Today’s actually the 100th Veterans Day,” said Bohannon. “The armistice was signed in 1918 signifying the end of World War I, but Armistice Day was first recognized by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. It was a horrible conflict which saw something like 4 million Americans in uniform. A mix of traditional infantry with modern weaponry decimated many people on the front resulting in many wounded veterans. Earlier in April 1915, the Germans released chlorine gas making this the first chemical weapons attack in history. It was a horrible time.”

According to Bohannon, the Veterans Administration estimates there are 18 million living veterans in the United States.

“It seems like a big number but that’s 0.4 percent of the U.S. population,” he said. “At the end of World War II and probably at the end of Viet Nam, almost everybody knew somebody who served in uniform. An all-volunteer force, an incredibly small percentage of people serve.”

Bohannon shared a little more history which explains how veterinarians became involved in the military.

“In 1916 it was becoming apparent that the United States was eventually going to get sucked into this war,” he continued. “June 3, 1919, President Wilson signed the National Defense Act that created the Army Veterinary Corps.”

Military veterinarians are responsible for many duties including treating military working dogs and horses, inspecting food and water sources to ensure they’re safe for consumption, helping prevent the spread of infectious diseases and developing animal health programs for foreign countries.

“I had the privilege of serving in the Veterinary Corps for 27 years,” said Bohannon. “For me in particular, Veterans Day is an odd holiday. I was not a combat veteran. I never had anything on my right shoulder. I had a lot of friends who did.”

In fact, one of Bohannon’s veterinary college classmates, Lt. Col. Daniel Holland, DVM, MPH, was killed in the line of duty while serving in Iraq. A gold star marks Holland’s memorial brick in the veterinary college’s Military Veterinarian Honor Court located outside McElroy Hall. While in town for this presentation, Bohannon was able to visit the flag display on OSU’s campus.

“I saw it on the Internet but I hadn’t really understood until I actually walked across campus,” said Bohannon. “There are 7,000 flags one for every person killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two things I wasn’t expecting. One was that each flag had an ID tag on it with a name, a rank and where they were from, their hometown. And there were two books with names listed. I found my next door neighbor – not a good day in 2004. He was one of the first people killed by a suicide bomber in the mess hall in Fallujah right before Christmas in 2004. And I found Dan. I had to look for Dan; a very good old friend.

“It’s a pretty big honor for me to be here today,” he concluded. “I appreciate the opportunity to honor veterans and appreciate you coming to help honor them. For those of us who have been in uniform or are in uniform, you’re never quite sure what to do when someone walks up to you and thanks you for your service. Most of us just say ‘you’re welcome’ and move on. But this is the day to thank you, to thank all those who have served and all those you know who served for their service. Thank you very much.”

Bohannon earned his DVM degree from OSU in 1988. Upon graduation he entered the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps serving 27 years on active duty. During that time he earned a master’s of public health and tropical medicine from the Tulane University of Louisiana and board certification from the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. He served in Korea, Germany, Texas, and California completing his career on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. Over the years, Bohannon became an expert in chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense. He continues to work in that area following his retirement from the Army.

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