Cadet Squadrons: 17, 8 and 33
Role Models: My Dad, Elva Hampshire (math teacher), Gus Grissom, Cong. Clarence J. Brown, Jr., Robert Machemer MD, Col. David Shacklett MD, my classmates in ‘70
Civilian Stuff: Professor (now Emeritus) at Houston Methodist Inst for Academic Medicine, Cornell, Baylor, USUHS. Founder, Retina and Vitreous of Texas, Founder: Texas Foundation for Eye Research, Co-Founder: Machemer Foundation (Duke), Co-Founder with Jenny: Greenon HS Foundation and Giampetro Scholarship, Founding Director: USAFA Endowment, Board: Guide Dogs of Texas and Hounds for Heroes, Founding Director: USAFA Endowment, President: CenTex Chapter of the AOG, Lifetime donor to the 100 Club (police and fire), and I Care San Antonio (also charity care there), etc.
Super Power: Awaken every morning and decide what we can make better and who we can help.
Runner: Great in HS, OK at the Academy, and a bummer until left knee is fixed in September
Cancer: Metastatic Thyroid in ’89 - the reason for retiring from the USAF; Prostate Cancer in 2013 - the reason for retiring from full-time practice. Remembering my dad and grand dad who died of cancer.
Click READ MORE for the "REAL STORY" ... disregarding the dangers of mustaches ...
The Real Story
Born in Springfield, Ohio and soon moved to Enon, Ohio to a WWII vet and his bride who made a loving family for my brother and me. Dad served in the Army from the 30’s throughout the war in the 147th Regiment from Ohio assigned to Marine One for the war’s duration in late 1941-1945. He became the First Sergeant of the Regiment (nickname Stumpy) and was awarded, among other medals, the Silver Star at Guadalcanal. Dad served as a policeman for the rest of his life. He taught us that you only get one “Integrity” and one life, make the best of it you can and to get through college. Allow the next generation to be able to do something they would love to do.
Enon was a farming community and great place to grow up. Many retired vets and active duty Air Force (near WPAFB) folks taught us their pride in the USA and to know that we are always only one generation from it being gone. I had great friends in Enon (still do) and great teachers at our HS. We gave the Pledge to our country every morning at school and honored our God at the Methodist Church where I met Jenny, my wife, when she was 12. Her dad was a tank commander under Gen. Abrams in Europe and also a loving dad. In the small HS of Greenon, if you went out for a sport, you were on the team, so played football, ran track, wrestled and, in the summer, played baseball. I had several little companies, a lawn company, a painting company, and a jack-of-all-trades repair service thanks to a grandfather who was a master car mechanic, an uncle who was a master electrician, and a dad who always worked two jobs to make our lives better and all taught me their trades. Dad and I laid tile, painted homes and many other jobs which only increased my respect for him. I also worked as a surveyor in HS as well as a farm hand on several farms. While collecting for my paper route at around 11 yo, I asked a client, Maj. Gus Grissom, how he was chosen to be an astronaut and how could I follow in his shoes. He spent an hour talking with me and suggested that I focus on my grades and school and get into college and perhaps even consider that new college, the USAF Academy. I did but had little chance of getting in as our Congressman, Clarence J. Brown, was very political in his nominations. I was accepted at other colleges but planned for General Motors Institute since I could work my way through, and I love cars.
Cong. Brown, unfortunately for him, passed away and the Governor appointed his son, Clarence J. Brown, Jr. to replace him. He immediately announced that he was apolitical for Academy nominations, asked all applicants to take another SAT, IQ test and a government test. On my birthday 31 Dec 65 he called and said that I was number 1 on his list and what Academy did I want. At graduation, when I came down from our dorm in my 2nd Lt. uniform, an old Army First Sgt. (dad) stood there saluting me. I saluted him and gave him my silver dollar, presented him with my saber and was congratulated by my family and my wife-to-be and her family. Cong. Brown and his wife quietly appeared at our wedding in our church with all of our Enon friends by our the only minister we’d ever known and wished us well in our lives.
After taking T-41 training at the Academy, I dropped out of the Physics Masters program for pilot training and to serve during the VN war. Things rapidly changed in ’71, and I chose a T-38 to get a lot of hours fast but then realized that my next assignment would be flying a chair. Time to reconsider med school, was accepted and completed in three years and on to an internship in Medicine and OB/Gyn, residency in Ophthalmology, and fellowship at Duke with Robert Machemer, the father of vitreoretinal surgery. He instilled, even more, the desire for innovation and the ongoing development of new techniques and instruments which continued over the next 35 years which was very exciting. In 1986 I learned of my promotion to Colonel, but my dad (a dream of his was to have a Colonel son) died before the ceremony. At the promotion, our commander began by saying that this was special for him since his words were not his. My dad had sent him a letter to be presented at my promotion of how proud he was of me, sorry he couldn’t be there, and he had something special for me. The commander then presented me with a pair of solid silver Eagles from my dad.
I loved being on active duty. With the development of metastatic Thyroid cancer in ’89, my plans to take a shot at Surgeon General (and maybe Supt) were spoiled, but academic medicine, studies, instrument and technique development as well as training fellows kept me busy and excited about my specialty and my family kept me excited in life. With my second cancer, Prostate, we elected to retire and spend the rest of our lives giving back. The cancers made me realize how extraordinary and fragile life is and to make the best of whatever time you have, cherish your family and friends and be thankful to your God.
Mike has been elected to the American Health Council’s Physician Board, where he shares his 40 years of knowledge and expertise in Ophthalmology, Vitreoretinal Surgery, and Medical Device Development. He has been selected as a “Leader in Medicine” by the American Health Council.
Photo above right, Mike in the red shirt is with Sebastian Vettel, leader of the Ferrari team and current leader of the F1 circuit. Someone posted the photo and said “Mike gives Seb the advice that allowed him to begin his winning spree.” Actually, he’s a very nice young guy with a great sense of humor, and Mike was telling him a joke.
Mike recounts how he got honorary astronaut flight jacket:
I do a lot of photography so brought my cameras to St. Paul, and it turned out they had everything planned except a photographer. I took that job and about 400 photos (ain’t digital great). They were each given a special flight jacket for the occasion (they gave a great group of lectures to all of the kids of St. Cloud), and near the end when I was photographing everyone, Charlie Duke said, “Hey Mike, get over here and get your own photo” — so I did. (As Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 16 in 1972, Charlie became the tenth and youngest person to walk on the Moon.) A week later the item above appeared on our doorstep…. Note the gear flag in the left arm pocket.
The "Winded Warriors" Team
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