Vail woman trains at military hospital
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – There was a picture on the cover of Military Officer magazine in June that showed a military working dog licking the face of a soldier. The photo caught the eye of retired Army Dental Corps Col. Fred Distelhorst, of Vail – the photo tugged at his heart strings.
The photo that shows the dog licking the soldier’s face shows a bond the two share, but it also shows a happy moment during a short break before heading back into harm’s way, wrote the magazine’s editor, retired Col. Warren S. Lacy.
Distelhorst’s granddaughter, Cynthia Edgerton, is a Vail Mountain School graduate who was home in Vail for the summer. Edgerton, 19, attends Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, and she’s hoping to become an Army veterinarian.
Distelhorst immediately read the story in the magazine that talks about the Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. The hospital operates under the U.S. Department of Defense Military Working Dog Veterinary Service.
He wanted his granddaughter to have a chance to go there.
Distelhorst picked up the phone and made some calls. He reached Col. Kelly Mann at the hospital in Texas and told him who he was.
“I said I’m a retired Army colonel and my granddaughter is studying pre-veterinary medicine,” Distelhorst said. “We’re wondering if she could go spend a couple of weeks down there.”
When Mann said no civilians would be allowed, Distelhorst had an answer. Edgerton is in the ROTC program at school, and that was enough to get her in the door down in Texas.
“He really wanted me to go,” Edgerton said about her grandfather. “I didn’t think it would actually happen.”
Edgerton was able to shadow some of the veterinarians at the dog hospital. She spent time in the operating room, watching everything from spays and neuters to dental work.
By the end of her two-week stay in Texas, she was trying some of the procedures on her own.
The experience was special because Edgerton got hands-on experience with veterinarians, but what was even more special was the ability to get that experience with the military.
Edgerton remembers hearing her grandfather talk about his time in the military when she was younger. When she decided she wanted to study veterinary medicine, Distelhorst told her she should look into joining the military.
“He always tries to convince people to join the military,” Edgerton said. “I ended up loving it, and I got a full-ride scholarship.”
Distelhorst couldn’t be more proud of his granddaughter. She’s following her dreams and she’s doing it in the military.
Edgerton said it’s the sense of community that she feels within the military that she likes so much. When she was in Texas at the dog hospital, everyone just works together and helps each other, she said.
And the opportunities are endless for when Edgerton graduates. She met veterinarians who had traveled to Japan, Iraq and Hawaii with the military.
With the experience she gained in the two weeks in Texas, Edgerton feels as confident as ever about her decision to become a military veterinarian.
“She just had a really interesting time down there,” Distelhorst said. “I’m very proud.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or email@example.com.