CAMP BLUE DIAMOND, RAMADI, Iraq -- Marlon D. Rendon immigrated to the United States from Ecuador when he was 17 years old to live with his father and start a new life in Queens, NY.
The 24-year-old petty officer third class is now serving as a corpsman with the 2nd Marine Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, providing for the medical needs of Marines here. Joining Marines on their daily patrols through the streets of Ramadi is a far cry from his strolls as a teenager down Corona Avenue in Queens.
“I never thought I would be doing this when I joined the Navy,” Rendon said. “But I like what I am doing.”
Rendon is assigned to the camp’s Quick Reaction Force, which is responsible for responding to threats against the camp and bringing security to the area by patrolling the surrounding city’s streets. It’s not an easy job, but Rendon volunteered for the assignment.
“When I got here they asked me if I wanted to work with the QRF,” Rendon said. “I said yes because I thought it sounded exciting.”
So far the job has met his expectations. Since being assigned to the unit, he’s conducted more than 120 patrols and been involved in the capture of a local terrorist sought by the U.S. military. He’s also seen his fair share of gunfights, but said he doesn’t worry about his safety.
Rendon described an incident during his first encounter with the enemy where his patrol was engaged with small arms. One Marine in the patrol grabbed him as rounds impacted just a few meters from his feet. The Marine then threw him behind cover and instructed him to ‘stay down’ in an effort to prevent him from being injured.
“The Marines really take care of me,” Rendon said. “They definitely look out for me and they don’t let me get hurt. It’s reciprocal. They take care of me and I take care of them.”
Rendon joked about the incident which happened nearly a month after joining the QRF. He was the first corpsman to make it that long without being shot at. Most corpsmen assigned to the QRF come under fire on their first patrol and many have encountered far worse.
His tone became more serious when he described what he referred to as ‘his worse time ever.’ He was called to aid two Marines injured by an improvised explosive device. The IED attack on the patrol came from a location he had passed by moments before. He said he had a pseudo-flashback, recalling his footsteps on the patrol.
The realism of the situation quickly set in and Rendon started treating the injured Marines.
“After seeing two patients down, I quickly came back to reality,” Rendon said. “But afterward, I couldn’t help think that it could have been me.”
Rendon is committed to his work and to the people he helps. With every incident, he becomes more skilled and applies what he has learned the next time he goes out. According to Rendon, the greatest thing anyone can do is commit themselves to helping people and stopping their pain.
“At the end of the day it makes me feel good to know that I helped someone,” he said. “When a guy comes up to me and says ‘remember me, you helped me out,’ and then says ‘thanks,’ it makes my day.”
His passion for helping people drives him to pursue his work as a corpsman and a career in the Navy. He is currently working toward his nursing degree and hopes to one day become a medical diver.
“Working as a corpsman in the Navy is great,” Rendon said. “There is no better job. I love what I do and they even pay me for it.”