Vietnam-era medical technician visits March Field

  • Published
  • By Capt. Scott Terra
  • 452 AMW Public Affairs

Public Affairs recently received a telephone call from a gentleman named Chris Reher, who explained that he was an Air Force veteran who had served in medical administration at March Field from 1962 to 1966.  His simple request was to take a quick trip down memory lane and visit his old work site.

Since any self-respecting Public Affairs shop is always on the look-out for a story, and demonstrating the fact that it is often times just as easy to issue a yes as it is a no, arrangements were made to respect the wishes of this veteran Airman.

At the appointed time, Reher arrived, and from the front gate (via official Air Force golf cart), his semi-self-guided tour commenced. He was genuinely enthused to be back on base for the first time in more than 50 years, and was obviously experiencing a flood of memories while cruising past the still-familiar, long-standing structures that he enjoy on this historic site. He casually voiced interesting recollections along the way, but became perceptibly more excited upon arriving at his particular former stomping grounds, which happen to be located in the northwest corner of the basement in the building now serving as Fourth Air Force’s Headquarters.

From 1938-1962, the building was the site of the base hospital and Reher said that during his time there, it housed a cast of characters who’s ‘reluctant hero’ demeanor very much resembled that of the TV show M.A.S.H. (80’s sitcom for you millennials).

While wandering the halls looking for someone who possessed a key to the basement, Senior Master Sgt. Cynthia Stidham generously decided to help him look. They wandered in to Col. Scott McLaughlin’s office, who upon learning of Reher’s experience in the medical dept. of the building, and being a little curious about the possibility of encountering paranormal activity during the occasional late work-night, asked Reher about the morgue rumored to have existed in the building’s basement. Reher immediately put McLaughlin’s, and a slew of other apparition-avoiding-Airmen’s, concerns to rest by saying that as he remembers it, during his time there it simply wasn’t so.  However, with a slight smile he added, “It was actually just across the street.”     

As Reher continued to entertain the now increasing group with stories, he mentioned that they were standing right by where he had once noticed a lady approaching the maternity ward, and when she was about half-way up the steps, walking with a bit of a list, she suddenly stopped, shook a little bit and a baby fell out of her. He said the new mother and child were fine. That prompted somebody to say, “Go get Deanna,” referring to Deanna Gibson, the numbered Air Force’s financial advisor, and a true local resident by the very definition because she was born in that very same maternity ward. She was delighted to meet Reher and actually informed the group, which now included the NAF’s Commander Maj. Gen. Randall Ogden. Although Gibson was a bit young at the time to remember the event, she was told that she had entered the world right about where the general’s desk currently sits!

Ultimately, somebody was able to locate the elusive basement key, at last allowing Reher access to his ultimate objective. Once underground, Reher described to those remaining in tow how the facility had previously been designed and used, proudly noting its operational capabilities. He spent an appreciable amount of time just silently reliving the past and noticeably relishing it.

He shared a few more personal stories, graciously thanked the group for accommodating his request, and said that he had seen what he needed to see.       

After having been very successful in business in the Southern California area, and achieving many standard benchmarks of success, Reher checked one more thing off of his bucket list.

“The four years I spent in the Air Force were the best times of my life!”

A moral to the story…the next time you’re in a position to say yes to someone’s simple request (and appreciating the fact that you’re in that position), doing so may benefit you more than the requester.