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06/18/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/18/2020 08:43

On the Shoulders of Giants: Diego Garcia Celebrates 122 Years of the Navy Corpsman

DIEGO GARCIA, British Indian Ocean Territory - (NNS) -- From the trenches of World War I in Europe to the beaches of Normandy and jungles of Guadalcanal in World War II, to Vietnam and the deserts of Iraq and mountains of Afghanistan, the calls of the wounded and dying have been answered by the United States Navy Corpsman.

Carrying just the essentials in a shoulder bag or pack, the corpsman (HM) has been known to run through gunfire to save their shipmate, their brother, or their sister--or make the ultimate sacrifice trying.

The corpsman at Navy Medical Training Readiness Unit (NMTRU) Diego Garcia came together to celebrate 122 years of the only enlisted corps in the Navy and remember those who came before them.

Since June 17, 1898, more than 2,000 corpsmen have given their life to save others. They have taken the corpsman pledge to dedicate their heart, mind and strength to their work and ensure every patient, from the most junior to senior Sailors and Marines and their families, has the best care.

'I love it. It's fun and exciting,' said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Felicia Parra, a general duty corpsman for NMTRU Diego Garcia. 'We're the only enlisted corps [in the Navy], and we really take that to heart and take our care of patients, both military and civilians, seriously.'

Usually the corpsman birthday is celebrated with fanfare with a formal ball, inviting all to gather and rejoice in their history and heritage, but this year a global pandemic has struck and social distancing and masks have become the new normal for many, including the small community on Diego Garcia.

Even with masks, the corpsmen stood proud, reciting the Hospital Corpsman Pledge reaffirming their duties to care for the 'sick and injured as a privilege and a sacred trust.'

'The corpsman rate means everything. It's been who I am since I enlisted in 2001,' said Chief Hospital Corpsman Carlos Gomez, leading chief petty officer for NMTRU Diego Garcia. 'A huge part of my life has been dedicated to this organization.

'Eventually you work at something for so long it becomes engrained in who you are as a person. I'm extremely honored to be a part of the corpsman family.'

The corpsman continue today, deployed all around the globe, both at sea and ashore, both on and off the battlefield, treating Sailors and Marines, their families, but remembering those who came before them, standing on the shoulders of giants.

Giants like Pharmacist's Mate Third Class David Hayden, who risked his life to save a mortally wounded Marine during a battle on the fields of France in 1918.

Or HM3 Clyde Benfold, killed in action on Sept. 5, 1952, while saving the lives of two wounded Marines at Outpost Bruce during the Battle of Bunker Hill in North Korea.

Answering the call of 'Corpsman!' during a fierce firefight in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, HM3 Robert Ingram dashed across an enemy ridge to provide aid to several wounded Marines despite being shot four times.

Or Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (SEAL) Edward Byers who was part of a 2012 unit to rescue American physician Dr. Dilip Joseph being held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Byers used his own body to shield Joseph from enemy fire.

Four men, four different wars, four tales of heroism and sacrifice, these are just a few of the 23 stories of corpsmen who have been awarded the most-prestigious personal military award: the Medal of Honor. Their devotion to duty, and each other, lives on in the corpsmen serving today.

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For more news from Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia, visit www.navy.mil/local/nsfdg/.