Navy Hospital Corpsmen: Ready to respond, anytime, anywhere

By Force Master Chief Sherman Boss
U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

The history of the Hospital Corps is well documented by heroes like the corpsmen who fought at Iwo Jima, as well as the many Navy ships and buildings that bear their name.

Four hospital corpsmen received the Medal of Honor for their service and bravery during the Battle of Iwo Jima, where according to Fleet Admiral Nimitz, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Their names are Francis Pierce, George Wahlen, Jack Williams, and John Willis. Seventy years later, the legacy of these brave corpsmen lives.

Francis Pierce

Francis Pierce

George Wahlen

George Wahlen

Hershel Williams

Jack Williams

John Willis

John Willis

Their legacy is plastered on the walls of every Navy hospital and clinic, and their names are remembered by every corpsmen operating forward around the world today.

140727-N-OL084-394 PACIFIC OCEAN (July 27, 2014) Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Joseph Lanyon, center, and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Larry Calvert conduct an initial patient assessment on a mock patient during a mass casualty drill aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the California coast and Hawaiian Islands. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin W. Galvin/Released)

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Joseph Lanyon, center, and Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Larry Calvert conduct an initial patient assessment on a mock patient during a mass casualty drill aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014, July 27. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in RIMPAC exercise from June 26 to Aug. 1, in and around the California coast and Hawaiian Islands. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin W. Galvin/Released)

Anyone can learn their names or see their faces, but today’s corpsmen are the true reminder of that legacy. A legacy that starts with a call to serve, is honed through training, and a commitment to readiness, and, ultimately, bound by a solemn oath.

Corpsmen are bound to their trade by an oath taken at graduation. They solemnly pledge themselves to faithfully practice their duties and hold the care of the sick and injured as a sacred trust. That is the basic principle of a hospital corpsman – it’s their foundation.

Today’s hospital corpsmen are vigilant and committed to one another, and to the values and principles that have defined their past and will forge the future.

Like other Navy Sailors, hospital corpsmen join the Navy to serve their country. But it’s our hospital corpsmen that are trusted to care for the sons and daughters of the Navy and Marine Corps. They are devoted to ensuring Sailors and Marines are medically ready and able to perform their duties. They do this in hospitals, aid stations, clinics, ships, submarines and anywhere else the Navy and Marine Corps operates. This preparation ensures their own readiness when the call comes; the call of “Corpsman Up!!!”

Hospital corpsmen have answered that call for more than 100 years in scores of places, some remembered but most forgotten. Places like the Argonne Forest, Iwo Jima, USS Midway, Inchon, Khe Sanh, Beirut, USS Cole or the unnamed highways and hills of Iraq and Afghanistan. The time or place is different, the result the same. Hospital corpsmen are well trained and prepared to answer the call. A call they pray will not come, but when it does, rest assured they are selflessly ready to respond, anytime, anywhere.

Editor’s note: The Battle of Iwo Jima was fought Feb. 19 to March 26, 1945.

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Navy Hospital Corpsmen: Ready to respond, anytime, anywhere