Former Presidential Physician Assistant Remembers Reagan

As a young man serving in the United States Air Force, it was Dallas Diederich's dream to be a physician assistant in the White House.

He later fulfilled that dream and attributes it to being in the right place at the right time. In 1986, Diederich joined President Ronald Reagan's 12-member medical unit as a P.A.

"We were part of the motorcade, we were part of the event sites, and basically, we trailed the President to all event sites and every place they went, from the time the Air Force One landed until it took off again," Diederich said.

Diederich spent 2.5 years by President Reagan's side.

"After he was shot and got into an exercise program and the training program, I mean he told all the rest of us, he was in the best health he'd ever been in his entire life," he said.

Diederich remembers many details about the Commander-in-Chief. His favorite drink was Diet 7-Up. And he often injured or cut himself while clearing brush.

"When we were at Santa Barbara, he cut wood, he rode, he lifted weights when he was at the White House," Diederich said.

A President who was active in recreation and in showing appreciation to those who worked for him.

"I wish people got a chance to know him as an individual the way in which we were able to know him," Diederich said. "I mean the kind, loving individual. I just can't tell you the gratitude that I have of being able to have the opportunity to spend that little bit of time with him. And his passing is going to be a big kind of hollow spot in my life and my heart."

As it will be for many other Americans who love and respect our 40th President.

Dallas Diederich also served as physician assistant to President George H.W. Bush until 1991. Diederich now works as a P.A. for Trinity Clinic in Tyler.

Julie Tam, reporting.