As the Commander of the 50th General hospital during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1991), I got to know Col. Don Trunkey pretty well. He was our Chief of Professional Services and was always busy keeping the medical/surgical side of things on a straight and narrow path. He presided over our M and M (Morbidity and Mortality) Conferences, and tolerated no nonsense in professional performance or behavior. This was accomplished in the company of a splendid sense of humor.
When LTG Yeosock, our 3rd Army Commander, developed a gallbladder infection and needed surgery, I asked Don to manage the situation as I knew if I were to get involved, I would end up as a middleman which would create a problem-prone situation, not to mention adding unnecessary delays . Don met with GEN Schwarzkopf (the Central Command Commander-and LTG Yeosock’s boss) to advise him how medical treatment for LTG Yeosock could be managed; and a decision was made to evacuate the general from the theater of operations and have him treated in Germany. Don and Col. Dan Cavanaugh, one of our General Surgeons, went to Germany with their patient, and performed the surgery. A quick recovery and return to duty followed; setting the stage for the initiation of the Allied ground offensive.
As one of the nation’s leading trauma surgeons, Don was always an advocate for documenting wound management and preserving this data for analysis; so that any information that could be identified as ‘lessons learned’ would be on record. He was particularly interested in seeing that this was done during Operation Desert Storm.
I remember sitting down with Don at Fort Lewis as we were being out-processed for discharge from active duty, and together working on a large stack of Officer Efficiency Reports which were due at that time. Misery does love company.
Don was recognized by the AMEDD (Army Medical Department) for his distinguished career and his contribution to military medicine by induction into the Order of Military Merit. Recognition he justly warranted.
After the first Gulf War, Don joined with us in the 50th General hospital Association. In spite of the considerable distance between Seattle and Portland he and Jane were able to make several of our reunions, and enjoyed seeing old friends and visiting the Fort Lewis area.
Tom Hutchinson, MD,
COL, USA (RET)