When Robert Steele was called to serve in Vietnam, he and his
girlfriend, Debbie, kept in touch by letter. While their relationship
didn’t last long after the war, Debbie held onto the letters she’d
received. Eventually, she married someone else and decided to share
the letters with her children who saw them as a piece of history.
That prompted Debbie to contact Dr. Steele and share those
treasured letters with him.
“I had not seen her or heard her name in 45 years,” said Robert
Steele, D.C., Davenport ’70, who runs a practice in the Alabama
town of Lineville. “The meeting and the letters brought back
memories of both heartbreak and the decision I made to become
Those memories were so strong that Dr. Steele decided to write
about them in a new book, “Letters from Vietnam: A Love Story.”
Along with addressing his relationship with Debbie, he tells of
his goal of one day attending Palmer College. The book is
available at amazon.com.
His early interest in chiropractic was sparked by the chiropractors he’d met growing up—all Palmer
graduates with recollections of B.J. and stories of the patients they’d helped with chiropractic care.
He was also influenced by a book his stepfather gave him, “Healing Hands: The Story of the Palmer
Family, Discoverers and Developers of Chiropractic.”
But Dr. Steele’s desire to become a chiropractor was complicated by the fact that he’d always had
difficulty in school, which is what led him to join the Air Force. His career goals took a U-turn,
however, after his tour of duty ended in Vietnam.
“It was while I was at the University of Tampa, through an Air Force program, that I learned that I
had dyslexia and I just needed a different way to learn,” he said. “At last I realized I was not dumb
and could go for my dream of becoming a chiropractor.”
As a student on Palmer’s Davenport Campus, Dr. Steele had to acclimate to the cold winters and the fact
that all single students had to live in a dorm—even those who’d just fought for their country. He also
learned it was best to keep quiet about having fought in a war that was increasingly becoming unpopular.
Four decades later, on the day former-girlfriend Debbie approached him with his letters from Vietnam,
she had a chance to observe Dr. Steele at his practice as he cared for and laughed with his patients. Of
the meeting, Dr. Steele recalls, “She told me, ‘You know, I was really hurt when we parted, but today I
can see you made the right decision.”