CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan --
Since the founding of the Navy Hospital Corps on June 17, 1898, Navy Corpsmen have taken their place alongside Marines on the battlefield. In every conflict from the Spanish-American War to Operation Enduring Freedom, corpsmen have saved life and limb for Marines on the front lines.
Corpsmen and Marines from Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, celebrated the corpsman’s 115th birthday with an appreciation event at the bowling center here, June 19.
“Hospital corpsmen deploy with Sailors and Marines around the world, providing lifesaving care and critical mission support aboard ship, in the air, under the sea and on the battlefield,” said Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, the U.S. Navy surgeon general and chief of the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, in a recent press release. “No Marine has ever taken a hill without a corpsman by his side. As Sailors and Marines deploy in harm’s way, they take solace in knowing that ‘Doc’ is beside them.”
The celebration started with the youngest corpsman and the oldest corpsman of the battalion ceremoniously cutting a birthday cake. The oldest Sailor was Chief Petty Officer William R. Janic Jr. (40 years old), the independent duty corpsman and a native of Parkersburg, W.Va., and the youngest was Seamen Cory B. Manka (20 years old), a platoon corpsman and a native of East Hampton, Conn.
“It was a proud moment standing beside the BLT commanding officer and cutting that cake, knowing that he appreciates the importance of having a ‘Doc’ close by,” said Manka. “It is not like we are separated from the Marines, we are one fighting force. We go in together, we come out together.”
After the ceremony, the Marines expressed their gratitude by providing the Sailors an assortment of burgers, hotdogs and chicken wings.
The bond between corpsmen and Marines remains strong because they endure mutual hardship and depend on each other in any environment. The corpsmen live, eat and sleep beside the Marines while going through the same rigorous training. Trusting and depending on the ‘Doc’ for everything from aches and pains to life-saving techniques develops a relationship between Marines and corpsmen that is without equal.
“We may poke fun at you from time to time but there is no squad of Marines angrier than one which lost their corpsman in combat,” said Lt. Col. Robert S. Weiler, commanding officer of BLT 2/4, 31st MEU, and a native of Woodbridge, Va. “The lives of our PFCs and LCpls and Corpsmen are inseparable. Our young Marines will do anything we ask them to do, clear trenches, clear buildings, and patrol (Improvised Explosive Device) infested areas as long as he knows we have a casualty plan and a Corpsmen that is going to be there for him, but you know this because you have been doing it for 115 years, and we are the beneficiaries.”
Through the 115-year relationship between corpsmen and Marines, the Hospital Corps has become the largest and most decorated component of the Navy. It currently fills more than 26,000 ranks of well-trained, physically-fit and combat-ready corpsmen. According to a U.S. Navy press release, twenty naval ships have been named after hospital corpsmen, 178 corpsmen have received the Navy Cross Award and in the Vietnam War alone, hospital corpsmen received four Medals of Honor, 31 Navy Crosses, 127 Silver Stars, and 291 Bronze Stars for heroics under fire.
Their skill and well-deserved accolades speak well enough to their value, but Marine legend Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller best described the attributes that endear corpsmen to Marines’ hearts. “They are long-haired, loud-mouthed, disrespectful (SOB’s) who would walk through the gates of hell to save a wounded Marine.”
The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.