MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – -- Naval hospitalmen or corpsmen, have served side by side with Marines to answer the call of “corpsman up!” from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1898 to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune reflected on the history of the corpsman, celebrating the 108th birthday of “devil docs” June 16.
Sailors in dress whites reflected on the long history of Naval hospital corpsmen and remembered fallen sailors with nine memorials of flak jackets and Kevlar helmets lined up to form a temporary monument before the National Ensign in front of the Naval Hospital.
“It was an honor for me to officiate the ceremony because this is just a way to show my appreciation for all the fellow corpsmen before me who did an outstanding job, and for my fellow sailors who I work with now,” said Master Chief Petty Officer Greg A. Bullock, chief information officer for the hospital. “We work side by side with the Marines and all do the same things when it comes to being on the battlefield. It comes down to saving lives and doing the best job I can do for my Marines.”
Shortly after the ceremony began, the guest of honor, retired Maj. James Capers, was introduced and told the story of a corpsman who saved his life in Vietnam.
“My Marines and I were on patrol in Phu loc, Vietnam, when a mine went off and I got hit with shrapnel. One of my Marines was killed instantly, and the rest were hurt pretty badly. But our corpsman, Doc (Petty Officer First Class) Smith was by our side treating every one of us,” Capers said. “He ran forty meters to help me, shielding my body with his from getting further hit by enemy fire. All of us were treated and survived that battle because of him. I never got a chance to thank him, but this is just a way for me to help close that chapter in my life to say thank you to every corpsman here.”
After Capers’ speech, he was presented with a plaque followed by a standing ovation. Although the gesture was greatly appreciated, Capers stressed that, “The real heroes are the men and women fighting in the war over in Iraq right now.”
A flag was folded in memory of the corpsmen who have given their lives in Iraq since 2005, and the nine names were read aloud, accompanied with the ringing of the bell for each name. After the flag was folded, it was placed with the memorials erected for each fallen devil doc.
“I see these as a symbol of great corpsmen going out there who are risking their lives to save our own,” Capers said in his speech. “When you look at a corpsman, in the same uniform as a Marine, you can’t tell the difference. They are Marines just medically trained.”
The youngest naval hospitalman present, Seaman Apprentice David J. Guimond, and the oldest , Chief Petty Officer Raymond Guynn, leading chief, Hospital Point Branch Medical Clinic, were presented with ceremonial cake.
“I like being around the Marines because they are a professional force. I have served along side Marines for the last eight years on Camp Lejeune going back and forth on different deployments,” Guynn said. “I think most sailors are not about the recognition, they just want to do well to take care of their Marines.”
Following the ceremony, guests enjoyed cake and punch, and the jovial, “happy birthday, Corpsman” could be heard uttered with pride.
“This day helped us look upon our history and be proud members of the Naval Hospital Corps,” Bullock said. “The relationship between the Hospital Corps and Marine Corps has just grown stronger over these 108 years. And I look forward to being a part of it for many years to come.”