ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- Hospital Corpsmen have served with Marines since June 17, 1898, the date President William McKinley signed the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps into law by act of congress. Sunday, during a ceremony aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), the Hospital Corpsmen of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit celebrated the 109th birthday of their organization.
According to Hospital Corpsman Third Class (Fleet Marine Force) Steve J. Heiss, a speaker at the event, the ceremony was a time for remembrance of those who marched before him and made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of those in their charge.
Heiss, an Operation Iraqi Freedom combat veteran, included in his speech a quote by former Marine Forces Pacific Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Wallace C Gregson, Jr., that read, “While the Marines have a good natured rivalry with other members of the armed forces, they consider the docs assigned to their battalions as equals… We learn a lot from the Corpsmen. They enrich our whole organization and make it one cohesive whole.”
Hospital Corpsman operated in the trenches of Belleau Wood, on the beaches of the Pacific where they often became targets of Japanese sharpshooters, and atop the peaks of Korea. With the same tenacity, they serve Marines in the cratered sands of Iraq today.
According to Heiss, The ceremony was a time to celebrate the heritage and traditions of the Hospital Corps -- a heritage of fighting for the freedom of those who can’t fight for themselves. It is a tradition of risking one’s life to save those injured in combat.
Hospital Corpsman Third Class Clayton E. Robinson, a corpsman with India Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, summarized his job as a line-company corpsman by saying, “I just take care of my boys.”
The Hospital Corps is one of the most decorated organizations in all branches of the U.S. military. Twenty-two hospital corpsmen have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Robinson, a Cocoa Beach, Fla., native, was awarded a Navy Achievement Medal with a “V” for valor in combat after a deployment to Ramadi, Iraq.
“At times, you can be like the Marines’ little brother. They’ll pick on you, but it’s because they like you,” said Robinson. “And, at other times, it’s like you’re their mom because you have to take care of a boo-boo or wipe the snot off their noses. I wouldn’t trade it for anything though; you definitely get to see the best of both worlds.”
Sailors of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps serve in every element of the 22nd MEU including the Command Element; BLT 3/8, the Ground Combat Element; Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261, the Aviation Combat Element; and Combat Logistics Battalion 22, the Logistic Combat Element. The MEU is scheduled to deploy aboard the Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group later this summer.