By Emily Loughridge
Dr. Will Wyatt, a Vietnam-era veteran, has cared for those around him for the last 56 years.
In 1968, Dr. Wyatt graduated from the University of Oklahoma with his degree in medicine and quickly joined the Navy.
He was stationed in various emergency rooms around the States to help soldiers coming home with their injuries.
Dr. Wyatt served his country for seven years before returning to Oklahoma with his wife, Lou Ann, and their four children.
Oklahoma was home to Dr. Wyatt, who grew up in western Oklahoma and was a son to farm hands. He and his family settled in the Yukon area, which is still home today.
Dr. Wyatt and several colleagues formed a practice in Bethany, where he worked for 19 years. Eventually he sold his practice to Mercy and worked for the company for another 15 years.
Dr. Wyatt then moved to the Deaconess Hospital, which changed hands and is now owned by Integris, and there is stayed for the last 15 years. Retirement is in sight for the doctor, as his last day with patients is Tuesday, June 13.
While he might retire from practicing medicine, he will still care for his wife at home. She was diagnosed with kidney failure in recent years, which is how Gracie entered in to lives of the Wyatt couple.
A son of the couple bought Gracie to keep his mom company since she spends most of her time inside the house.
Dr. Wyatt said that years ago he used to train and show dogs, so it was decided to train Gracie.
Versa K9 for Vets, a company out of El Reno, visited the Piedmont Area Veterans Association (PAVA) to talk to the veterans about service dogs.
Versa K9 trains service dogs for free and can provide service dogs to people who do not have one.
Dr. Wyatt and Gracie trained with Versa K9 every weekend for four months, until Gracie passed numerous tests and earned her certificate.
Gracie has now served Dr. Wyatt for two years as his service dog, providing him a sense of companionship, comfort, and joy.
The doctor said that loud noises often startle him, and Gracie is good about getting into his lap and reminding him to calm down. She also alerts him if someone walks up to him.
He mentioned that after his service he showed signs of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Dr. Wyatt said Gracie does very well when she’s on-duty and she often goes with him to his office, grocery stores, restaurants, and is always by his side at home.
“Sometimes it’s just good to be outside with your dog, watching the dog run and play, and just be outside. I mean after spending 10 or 12 hours a day in the office, it’s nice to be outside,” Dr. Wyatt said.
He continued to say he learned that he could handle his PTSD better if he would work long shifts – often between 10 and 12 hours – and be extremely tired then return home, eat dinner, and go to bed before waking up to repeat the process.
In the past two years, Dr. Wyatt has reached out to the VA for mental health counseling, and he now sees a counselor one monthly.
“I felt a little bit guilty that I was in the Navy, but I’m here in the States working in the hospitals – where it’s safe – and they’re overseas getting shot at,” Dr. Wyatt said about a thought that plague him for a long time and has been a conversation with his counselor.
Dr. Wyatt commented that back in the 1970s it was not popular to say you were in the military. The media painted the military as a bad deal said the doctor; however, he felt like it was his patriotic duty to join because most of the guys around him were doing what they thought was right.
He said he couldn’t admit that he felt anxious or depressed after his service because the PTSD and depression were not understood very well at that time.
“A little boy – maybe seven or eight – came up and said, ‘Thank you for your service, mister,” and that makes you feel good now because in the late 70s you didn’t get that from anyone, least of all little kids,” Dr. Wyatt said about a recent encounter he had.
Looking back on his life, Dr. Wyatt said he has no regrets, and he would do it all again. His retirement will be spent alongside his wife of over 60 years, hunting and fishing, and spending time with his children and grandchildren.