76-year-old Army medic on 4th tour in war zones

Dr. John Burson, a 76-year-old Army medic
Dr. John Burson, a 76-year-old Army medic
CBS News

Finally this evening, the last draftee is set to retire from the army this summer at the age of 58. Command Sergeant-Major Jeff Mellinger was drafted back in 1972. In recent years, he survived 27 roadside bombings while deployed in Iraq.

CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark reports on another long-serving veteran with a great story.

In Afghanistan being a doctor can be a frontline position. But even back from the fighting, men and women of the U.S. Military have tough jobs and the medical problems to match.

An experienced eye makes all the difference, and few are more experienced than Dr. John Burson, an ear, nose and throat specialist from Villa Rica, Georgia. At age 76, he may not have seen it all, but he brings a lot of history to his work at this US military clinic in Kabul.

"There not sure if I'm a father figure or a grandfather figure," Dr. Burson says. "I carry with me mostly an appreciation for the incredible sacrifice I see among the young people here. The real dedication, the love of country...it's an opportunity to come back and sort of pay back a little to your country,"

Dr. Burson is a volunteer with the Reserves. This is his 4th tour since 2005; Two in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. He joined the Army back in 1955, but never saw combat, missing Korea and Vietnam. He was out of uniform for 26 years and he says the nature of war has changed dramatically in that time - modern communications can make dealing with combat stress more difficult.

"This is a complicated war. We're in a situation where troops communicate with home every day. They get emails every day. They get text message every day, cell phone messages. They live in two worlds. They live in the world of home and the world of here," Dr. Burson says.

In the meantime he patches them up so they can do their jobs. Dr. Burson says this may be his last tour, but he's really not so sure, hinting that in 2 years he will have forgotten the hardships and be ready to help. By then, he'll be close to 80 years old.