As told by Dr. Wilken

While I was in the College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, a recruiter came to the campus to tell about the Navy Medical Student Program, which offered a financial incentive for a commitment after graduation. It appealed to me and I enlisted in the Navy in 1965. Following graduation, I was sent to Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Norfolk, Virginia, for my internship. It was the largest military hospital in the United States, and my patients ranged from birth to Senior Citizens. The births were because Norfolk was a huge military area, and the senior citizens were those who had retired from some branch of the service. We worked shifts of 12 hours on, 12 hours off, or if the occasion demanded 24 hours on and 12 off.

After a year, I went into submarine service on a nuclear sub, the USS Patrick Henry. There was a training base at New London, Connecticut, and we went from there to Holy Loch, Scotland, which was our base. Submarine service is the most unusual of any branch because it is totally voluntary. No one with claustrophobia signed on. In fact, no one is assigned to a submarine, so the morale is very high. There were two crews in order for the sub to be out for three months at a time. During one period, we were out 57 days without surfacing. The crews are also unusual because they return after their leaves eager to get back.

A disadvantage was that we had, with the exception of 15-word messages, no contact with our families or friends, We could receive them but not send. It was fascinating to discover how creative correspondents became in packing a surprising amount of news in 15 words.

In addition to being the doctor for the crew, I was the officer in charge of atmosphere control. I learned to read and adjust the equipment to provide the proper levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc. There were oxygen generators and burners to take care of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. It was my responsibility to test the levels and keep them appropriate.

I also served as a dentist when necessary, and filled two teeth. One filling kept coming out but the other stayed in pretty well. The patients saw a dentist as quickly as they had the opportunity.

We also had an outbreak of mumps — nine cases, and our Captain took considerable interest in the situation because he couldn't remember whether or not he had them as a child.

The Captain and I agreed that it seemed a shame for the men to have but not take advantage of the opportunity to see that part of the world when we were on leave, so we arranged tours. There were two tours in Scotland — one to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland — and it was gratifying to find that we were well received wherever went,

It came as a total surprise one day when it was announced over the intercom, "Dr. Wilken has been promoted to Lt. Commander Wilken." We had a little celebration limited only because we couldn't fling open the windows and make as much noise as we might have.

Julie lived in Connecticut while I was gone, and our son Jeff was born while we were there. Also during that time, Julie flew over to Scotland. I could accumulate only 60 days leave and the rule was "use it or lose it." So I took 30 of those days and we traveled around Europe. That was a particularly great time.

I was in submarine service for two years and spent the last two at the Naval Shipyard in San Francisco. My office was on base, and our home was a great house with windows that looked out over the bay. We called it our pumpkin house because it was painted orange. Our son Scot was born during that time and everybody in the family visited us while we were there.

Those were my years in military service. Before and after: Both Julie and I had grown up in Iowa. She was from Dayton and I lived between Carroll and Denison. Julie was still in high school and I in college when we met. We were introduced by her two brothers who were also at the University.

Our choice of Osceola for our home came about because I had written to the University to tell them I would be discharged and was looking for a place to practice. They sent a list, but I had a course I wanted at the University and looked at some of the places while I was taking the course. Dr. Jim Kimball was a fraternity brother and he and Mary Ellen invited Julie and me to visit them in Osceola, Anyone acquainted with them knows their exceptional ability to be fine hosts. They showed us around the community and introduced us. As we left, people graciously said, "You and your wife come back."

We liked what we saw, the qualify of people we met, and made our choice. I went into practice with Drs. Bristow and Lauvstad in the new clinic on West McLane, now the antique store. Dr. Armitage was deceased at that time and Dr. Lauvstad had a hard time when he walked past my door. Dr. Armitage was left handed as am I. I curled my arm around as he had done, and when Dr. Lauvstad caught a glimpse of that action, it really freaked him out.

I have now retired and Julie and I are enjoying life and our grandchildren. Jeff married Nicole and they have three boys; Scot and wife Joni live in Eaton, Ohio and have two boys. Denise was born after we came to Osceola. She married Ryan Ramsey. They live in Osceola with their three sons. Julie and I have eight grandchildren, all boys.

One of our primary interests has become following college wrestling. This started early for me as I paid particular attention to Dan Gable's coaching at Iowa State University. When he went to the University of Iowa, they were chartering a plane to participate in a meet in Maryland. he called and asked if I would care to go. I did. I introduced Julie to the sport and she is now as big a fan as I. We attend many college meets.



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Last Revised June 14, 2015