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FILKIN HONORS A FRIEND'S MEMORY WITH A VIETNAM CLINIC IN HIS NAME



While some wounds need time to heal, Walter Filkin, XP-33 (’73), knows other wounds have more immediate needs: water, medical supplies, and sanitary conditions.

In a tribute to his longtime friend Floyd Olsen, who was shot down in a remote mountain village in Hue Province during the Vietnam War, Filkin traveled to the jungle last spring to dedicate a medical clinic established in Olsen’s honor.

Olsen had been listed as missing in action for 10 years before the Army declared him dead. Still, Filkin and other friends pursued clues of his existence for nearly three decades before accepting the pilot’s apparent fate. Closure is difficult when physical evidence is lacking, Filkin says. “Death is not fun, but to have a loved one missing, it’s hard to put a finishing touch on it.”

The idea to recognize his friend’s life with a living memorial came from a mutual friend who had traveled to the crash site in Vietnam numerous times over the years and came to know the people of the village and their primitive existence. With no electricity or running water and a dilapidated shack with a tin roof serving as a makeshift medical center, many people–particularly children–died from simple illnesses. Under such conditions, “the flu can be deadly,” Filkin says.

Filkin, a retired senior vice president of the Chicago Corporation, and several other friends contributed funds to build a new medical facility for the village. Just $25,000 was enough to build and furnish a modest–but modern by village standards–building with a red-tiled roof, cement block and stucco walls, running water, and several examination rooms. Power is expected to be installed in another two years.

As chairman of the board of Central DuPage Hospital, Filkin also arranged for the donation of supplies for eight fully equipped medical kits, which are used for house calls.

Providing care to people who were once considered the enemy, to perhaps the very people who shot his friend’s plane down, raises no questions for Filkin. “They really were just pawns in a much bigger chess game,” he says. “I’m glad they’re finally getting the medical care they need.”

–C.N.

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