Dr. H. Edward Bridgeman’s gave his lucky bullet from Vietnam to his final dental patient as he retired after 47 years.
At first blush, that seems particularly appropriate since he operated out of Dental Clinic #1 at Fort Carson, Colorado, for the past 11 years, after retiring from private practice in Plano, Texas. Over that time, he served as a contract doctor with the Army for 7+ years and with the Air Force for more than three years, sandwiched between two more years in private practice in Colorado Springs.
But that’s not the whole story. Dr. Bridgeman, BS ’64, DDS ’67, handed over dozens of those lucky bullets over the years. They meant a lot to his patients — so much so that one returned from Afghanistan and sought him out to replace the one she lost over there. So he reached into his top drawer and gave her another one and she left happy.
It all started with a stray bullet on his desk. People would ask about it, and he’d tell them a story of “humping through the rice paddies.” Bridgeman, who will turn 73 in April and peppered jokes followed by a hearty laugh throughout a recent interview, said he thinks “most people realized it was a baloney story” but they all seemed to prefer the “lucky bullet” to the normal toothbrushes and dental floss most dentists give their patients at the end of an appointment.
Bridgeman did serve three-and-a-half years in the Navy (with an additional 22+ in the U.S. Naval Reserves. Even though he says he found it to be “a blessing and a privilege to serve these Warriors who protect us,” Bridgeman adds that it was much lower stress than the 32 years he spent in his civilian practices. “You can’t leave your dental practice at the office,” he says. “But nobody calls you in the Army after work. I knew everyone’s family when I practiced in Plano. This was a lot of fun.”
Dr. Bridgeman is married, with four sons and 11 grandchildren — eight of them girls — and now makes his home in Woodland Park, CO, with its 9,000-foot elevation. He says he has no plans for the future beyond “taking care of the grandkids, protecting my money from plunging stock markets, and shooting squirrels from the back deck and watching the foxes clean them up for me.”
Dr. Bridgeman can be reached at [email protected]