COLUMBIA — Lt. Col. James Toombs, an MU School of Medicine graduate who serves in the Missouri National Guard, spoke Monday at a Veterans Day Ceremony that recognized winners of a Veterans Day essay contest.
The ceremony, held at Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital, also featured songs and prayers.
A specialist on pain medicine, Toombs said he could have talked about treating pain. Instead, he elected to talk about his time in the Marines and the joy of walking off of the plane upon arriving home.
“This is a little closer to home. This is a little closer to my heart,” he said.
A staff physician at the hospital, Toombs also oversees troop medical clinics around Missouri as the medical detachment commander for the National Guard. He serves as the Missouri National Guard’s state surgeon and reviews conditions of soldiers during and after enlistment.
Toombs has been awarded two Bronze Stars: one for his command of a helicopter squadron during Operation Desert Storm and another for developing a system to track brain injuries while stationed in Iraq.
Toombs and his colleagues standardized training for doctors in Iraq, so that they can uniformly record and monitor the number and severity of soldiers’ brain injuries. Toombs said the system tracks soldiers individually, as well as by commander.
“As soldiers are injured here or there, there’s no way to track them,” Toombs said, referring to why he and his colleagues developed a new system. “Even the smallest of brain injuries have the potential to be catastrophic if (soldiers) get another brain injury shortly thereafter.”
After Toombs’ remarks, the eight winners of the essay contest were recognized and excerpts of the essays were read.
Throughout the ceremony, veterans in attendance stood or raised their hands to be commended.
Tony Dolahite, a 91-year-old World War II veteran, sat in his wheelchair in the front of the room during the ceremony.
Born in Grafton, Ill., Dolahite, served in Austria, Germany and the Philippines.
Dolahite told many stories about his service, but one memory is most potent — seeing Gen. George S. Patton.
As he thought about the experience, tears welled in his eyes.
“I’d go to hell with that man any day,” he said.