Hal Kushner was born in 1941 in Honolulu, Hawaii, while his father was serving in the Army Air Corps. He was just six months old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and Hickam Air Field, where the Kushner family was living at the time. Hal graduated from the University of North Carolina with a BA degree in Chemistry in 1961, and he received his M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia in 1966. Dr. Kushner entered the Army while a medical student on May 12, 1965. He served his internship at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, the same hospital he was born at, in 1966 and 1967. He next received aviation medical training at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida, before deploying to Vietnam as a Flight Surgeon in August 1967 with the 1st Squadron, 9th US Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division.
Kushner was captured by the Viet Cong west of Tam Ky, South Vietnam, on December 2, 1967. He spent the next 1,933 days in captivity in various prison camps, first in South Vietnam, and then toward the end of the war, in North Vietnam. He was released during Operation Homecoming on March 16, 1973. After repatriation, Col Kushner served consecutive residencies in Internal Medicine and Ophthalmology at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, from 1973 to 1977. He left active duty on September 23, 1977, and joined the Army Reserve, where he retired as a Colonel on May 11, 1986. Dr. Kushner served a stint as a surgical fellow for the International Eye Foundation in Lima, Peru, in 1976, was a visiting surgeon with Project Orbis in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1985, served on a medical mission to Haiti in 1999, served in Punjab, India, in 2001, was a visiting surgeon in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2002, was visiting surgeon in Uttar Pradesh, India, in February and March 2005, and was a visiting surgeon on a mission to the Dominican Republic in February 2006. Col Kushner was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in April 2001.