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HOUSTON, TEXAS (August01,
At a time when Houston didn't even have an official ambulance system, the idea of medical helicopters swooping into urban mayhem and whisking away patients fighting for their lives might have seemed impossible. But Army veteran and trauma surgeon Dr. James "Red" Duke knew military helicopters saved lives on the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam, and he wanted to bolster survival rates by getting civilians who had been shot, stabbed or in car accidents to a hospital as quickly as possible. Now, 41 years after that first flight took to the air on Aug. 1, 1976, Memorial Hermann Life Flight has notched more than 150,000 missions. It has served as a model for programs across the country, been portrayed in three television shows - including a docudrama - and helped train NASA astronauts.