I had just been promoted to the rank of Commander in the Navy SEAL Teams when I accepted a medical school scholarship from the Army. I wore my Navy uniform, with gold SEAL Trident above my ribbons, proudly for the last time, with my family by my side, as I was sworn in to start my medical career as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps. The Navy would have demoted me also, as all medical school students begin again in rank. The reason is quite logical. If I were to graduate at a higher rank, then the only jobs available would be command and staff jobs appropriate to my rank. I needed to learn my trade as a doctor seeing lots of patients and delivering lots of babies before moving up the responsibility ladder.

The Navy had said I qualified for a three-year scholarship, and the Army said four years. I was 36-years old with two children and Wake Forest University medical school was very expensive. I took the money and changed uniforms.

The Army medical school scholarships paid a monthly stipend that was half of a 2nd Lieutenant’s starting salary. It also provided for one month of active duty, drawing full pay. That month, in our third and fourth years, allowed us to do rotations in military hospitals where we might want to be selected to do our residency.

The best family medicine residency in the Army was at Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Washington. I went there for both third and fourth-year rotations. I wore my Army uniform with the bright gold SEAL Trident above my left pocket. It got lots of confused looks, but in some cases, it got me some earned respect that my 2nd Lieutenant “butter bars” would not have permitted.

“Lieutenant Adams, you were here last year, and we liked you. You should be going somewhere else this year,” stated Colonel Thompson. He was the Family Medicine Department Chief and would be instrumental in the future I hoped for. I needed him to select me for a residency in family medicine at Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, Washington.

“Yes, sir. I know, but I really liked it here last year. I want you and your staff to know that when I fill out the required five choices for my residency, it is going to say: 1. Madigan, and 2. through 5. will be: Kill me, Kill me, Kill me, Kill me.”

This earned me a nod and a smile.