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An old photograph shows when corpsman Robert E. Bush received the Medal of Honor from President Harry S. Truman Oct. 5, 1945 in Washington.

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Combat Center remembers corpsman who risked it all for the Marines he loved

8 Nov 2008 | Lance Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

Combat Center service members remembered the life and death of a hero who dutifully performed his job of saving Marines with no regard to his own life as it comes closer to the anniversary of his death Nov. 8, 2005.

Robert E. Bush received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Battle of Okinawa in the midst of World War II.

“If you had the chance to ask him about his heroism, he would tell you he didn’t do anything out of the ordinary,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Rodney S. Ruth, the senior enlisted leader and director for medical services, who has heard many stories and read a lot about Bush. “He would say he did what he was trained to do; take care of his Marines, which he did to the best of his abilities.”

Bush is remembered by the corpsmen that follow in his footsteps and care for the Marines they serve with. Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital in Twentynine Palms, Calif., was named after the Medal of Honor recipient in 2000.

“Whenever we walk through the front hallway we see the pictures of Robert E. Bush and it reminds us of what we strive to be like,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Demetrulias, the career counselor for the hospital.

Bush’s story began when he dropped out of high school at age 17 to join the Navy Medical Corps, where he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Less than a year later he was partaking in an amphibious assault on Okinawa, Japan, for what later was considered the longest and bloodiest battle in the Pacific theater of World War II.

On May 2, 1945, during the battle of Okinawa, Bush braved surrounding artillery, mortar and machine gun fire from hostile positions as he moved from one wounded Marine to another, ending on a ridgetop administering blood plasma to a Marine captain in critical condition.

During this perilous moment, the Japanese launched a counterattack, leaving Bush and the Marine officer exposed during the deadly firefight. Despite the danger, Bush continued to administer the plasma. Lifting the bottle high in one hand, Bush drew his pistol with the other and fired into the advancing enemy ranks until he was out of ammunition. He quickly grabbed a discarded carbine and continued to fire upon enemy ranks. His actions accounted for six enemy deaths.

Disregarding his own injuries, which included a loss of an eye during the counterattack, Bush refused medical attention until he had finished his main mission in evacuating the Marine officer. He collapsed as he tried to walk to the battle aid station.

“It is the Medal of Honor recipients that we take strength from,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jose Mata, a health benefits advisor at the hospital. “We look back and see what he did. There was a Marine captain wounded, and without a thought about himself, he killed the enemy and dragged the Marine back into safe territory, completely ignoring his own injuries.

“He shows us how to live our lives the way they should be done, not the convenient way, but the right way,” continued the Hialeah, Fla., native.

            After the battle he was sent home due to his injuries where he dutifully returned to high school and married his high school sweetheart, Wanda.

            Bush enrolled in classes at the University of Washington and bought a small lumber company where he spent the next 50 years building and spreading his company throughout north western United States.

            Several monuments have been built in Bush’s honor including a statue of him during the war located in his hometown of South Bend, Washington, a similar statue outside the main doors of the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital, and the Bush Health Care Clinic, located in Camp Courtney, Okinawa, Japan, was also named after him.

“He was a hero,” said Demetrulias, who met Bush during a corpsman ball years ago. “He is the epitome of what you want a green side corpsman to be.”




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Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms