Medical pioneer buried at Arlington cemetery

July 18, 2008 10:42:54 AM PDT
Defense Secretary Robert Gates lowered himself on one knee at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday and presented the flag from the coffin of medical innovator Dr. Michael DeBakey to his wife, Katrin. Gates' presence and that of Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake at the graveside burial ceremony signaled the prominence of DeBakey, who achieved immortality long before he died.

As a young boy, DeBakey devoured an Encyclopedia Brittanica set and then invented so many medical devices, procedures, tools and concepts that he became an encyclopedia entry himself.

DeBakey "viewed death as a personal enemy," presiding Chaplain Harry Rauch III said Friday. DeBakey accepted the reality that everyone must die but insisted that death should be fought all the time, Rauch said.

DeBakey died last Friday at the age of 99.

His World War II service entitled him to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, but his grave is not among those of medical doctors. That area is full.

DeBakey was buried in plot 399-A, Section 34, an area where Gen. John J. Pershing and Ira Hayes, one of the Iwo Jima flag raisers, also lay. His nearest neighbor is World War II veteran and Bronze Star winner Edward Curtis Franklin, who died in 1958 at age 43.

The burial site seemed deserved for the man whose work led to military units that deliver lifesaving surgeries on the war front and for the research on veterans health problems that became the Veterans Administration, now Veterans Affairs.

The lives of many of the hundreds of thousands also buried at Arlington were cut short in battle, but a number of the other departed veterans there surely benefited from the heart bypass, rolling pump, medical tools or other procedures and devices that DeBakey innovated.

The sun glinted off the medals of a Marine as he handed to Gates the American flag folded with a precision DeBakey would have appreciated. "In life he honored the flag," Rauch said. "In death the flag honors him."

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in memory of Dr. Michael E. DeBakey to the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center Research Fund as follows:

The Methodist Hospital Foundation**
DeBakey Memorials
P.O. Box 4384
Houston , TX 77210-4384

**Noting DeBakey memorial in memo line of their check.

Direct web site information:

www.methodisthealth.com/DeBakeyMemorial

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