Twentynine Palms -- When America was on the brink of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Navy Surgeon General J.R. Tyron and fellow physicians lobbied that the Navy have a hospital corps. President William McKinley signed the bill from Congress into law June 17, 1898. Today, more than 118 years later the Navy Hospital Corps has become the largest corps in the Navy.
Corpsman of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., celebrated their 118th Hospital Corpsman birthday at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula Calif., June 17.
This is the second year the sailors have decided to celebrate their corps’ birthday with a traditional ceremony.
“Celebrating our birthday lets us reach back and celebrate our 118 years of where we came from and where we go moving forward,” said Capt. John A. Lamberton, commanding officer, Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital. “The junior sailors, both officers and enlisted, get to wear the traditional military uniform. Wearing it celebrates our past 118 years, the celebration of future is the hope they have today, and the hope today is these men and women take pride in wearing our uniforms.”
The invocation was given by the chaplain from the Protestant chapel pastor.
“For 118 years, corpsmen have held the care of the sick and injured to be a privileged and a scared trust,” said Lt. Ryan Krause, Protestant chapel pastor, Headquarters Battalion. “It is upon the strong shoulders of yesterday’s warriors that today’s ‘Devil Doc’ stands sure and true.”
After the invocation by the chaplain, Lamberton gave the commander’s remarks. He spoke of the rich history of the Hospital Corps and one individual in particular, Robert Eugene Bush.
“In front of our proud hospital is a statue of one brave man, in one hand holding IV [intravenous] fluid, and in the other holding a .45 caliber pistol; lying before him is a Marine Corps captain,” said Lamberton. “Robert E. Bush answered his call to save this wounded captain after hearing, ‘corpsman up.’ It didn’t matter that he was only 18 years old, it didn’t matter that he didn’t finish high school, what mattered is he was answering his call to ‘corpsman up.’”
The guest speaker of the ceremony, retired Command Master Chief Petty Officer Eric D. Faulkner, spoke after the commanding officer gave his final remarks and thanked his fellow sailors for serving alongside him.
“We recite the corpsman pledge every year and it should mean something and resonate with you,” said Faulkner. “You are not allowed any harm to come to anyone vested to your care, whether that is in garrison or on the front lines. We as corpsman have showed over the years that it is what we are about.”
Following the guest speaker’s comments, the corpsman took a moment to remember the prisoners of war and those missing in action. There was a table near the front of the event hall, held a place setting for one person. The lights dimmed and a spotlight illuminated the table, the corpsman stood quietly, respectfully paid homage to those who have yet to return home.
After the POW/MIA remembrance, those in attendance took a moment to honor those lost in combat with a Hospital Corpsman remembrance.
With that, a single beam of light focused on the battlefield cross in the front of the room as sailors hung dog tags of corpsman who gave their lives in combat.
“It’s hard during that portion of the ceremony, especially being a command master chief,” said Command Master Chief Petty Officer Carol Merricks, command master chief, 1st Medical Battalion. “Seeing all the corpsman that have made the ultimate sacrifice makes me take my job so much more serious. If you ask any command master chief, you will learn that they lose sleep over the health and welfare of their corpsman. We care so much about service members.”
During the last portion of the ceremony the sailors collectively recited of the hospital corpsman pledge. Corpsman of all ranks raised their right hands and concluded the ceremony echoing, “I shall do all within my power to show in myself the example of all that is honorable and good throughout my naval career.”