An exemplary life will be spotlighted when an Indian American retires next month after an illustrious, 21-year-old career with the U.S. military.
Gujarat-educated Brigadier General Ravindra Shah, the state air surgeon for New York Air National Guard, Latham, New York, retires on May 3. An urologist by training, he is to be honoured in a military ceremony the same day.
Recollecting his career journey, Shah said he came to the U.S. in 1961 after a bachelor's degree in surgery from Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, and began his military career in 1982 by joining the 174th Fighter Wing, Syracuse, New York, as a major.
Among his recent assignments, he recollected his involvement in making sure that American troops sent to Afghanistan were fighting fit.
He also said that in the weeks following September 11, 2001, he was at Ground Zero every day to ensure that the armed forces were ever-present to protect civilians and people in uniform.
"My basic aim was to set an example. I am a follower of the 'Bhagwad Gita'. I wanted to say that I have not become a citizen of the United States to enjoy the luxuries. I wanted to say that my community is willing to make sacrifices," he said.
"That has helped. I have never faced any problem in my career because I was a South Asian or a member of the minority community." "I will now concentrate on my private practice at Oswego Hospital and also continue teaching. I am an associate professor of urology at the State University of New York in Syracuse," Shah told IANS.
"But much depends on a new assignment. I have been nominated by the New York Air National Guard to assist the surgeon general of the United States Air Force," Shah said.
"If my nomination is accepted, I'll be appointed in the rank of a major general with two stars." He, nevertheless, said he will still be able to serve the military as a liaison officer in the U.S. Air Force Academy to prepare prospective students and help in their selection.
"I also hope to expand a foundation set up by my family -- Tarandi, which is named after my wife's mother Tara and my own Anandi," said Shah, whose wife Manjula is a retired anaesthesiologist.
"The foundation has been supporting research on geriatric medicine at the Brown University and also funding a student every year."
According to the official website of the Air National Guard, Shah completed "Top Knife School" with an award in 1991 and was subsequently recognised as a fighter surgeon, as opposed to a flight surgeon.
He is also a graduate of "Kool School", a two-week survival training in the Arctic and Antarctic, following which he formulated a medical policy for the Air wings mission to both regions that is still valid.
As brigadier general, Shah has been responsible for providing the commander of the N.Y. Air National Guard with advice and counsel on all matters related to the health of the force and to the adequacy and capability of the medical services personnel at the unit level.
He administers state medical service programmes, affecting 6,500 New York Air National Guard members, the official website said, adding he is also responsible for promoting flight safety, medical recruitment and advising the State Planning Committee for Disaster Preparedness.