MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Every time Cpl. Matthew Palacios looks down at his scars, he thinks back to late Nov. 2004 and his unit’s struggle to help wrest Fallujah from the insurgency’s grip.
It was a time when many perished, but a few like he and dozens others would live thanks to the expertise and dedication of one doctor and his team of Navy corpsmen.
For 10 straight days, Lt. Cmdr. Richard H. Jadick served alongside the Marines of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment as they fought street-to-street and house-to-house in one of bloodiest battles of the Global War on Terrorism in Iraq. Throughout that time, the battalion surgeon treated and oversaw the care of more than 90 combat casualties in everywhere from the battlefield’s frontlines to makeshift hospitals established in downtown Fallujah’s abandoned buildings.
For his actions, Jadick was presented the Bronze Star Medal with combat distinguishing device here Jan. 30.
Brigadier General Joseph J. McMenamin, 2nd Marine Division’s assistant commander, proudly pinned the military’s fourth highest award given for heroism and meritorious service onto the doctor’s uniform’s left breast pocket.
“I’m humbled by what people think of me, but I don’t feel I did anything that people here (military) don’t do everyday,” said Jadick, who is currently a urology resident in Augusta, Ga.
“You wear the uniform; you guys are the heroes,” he continued as he gestured toward his fellow sailors and Marines.
McMenamin cited examples of the Navy corpsmen’s bravery in battle dating back to World War II, stating that Jadick’s courage under fire and the resolve of the ‘docs’ nowadays is no different than in the past.
This much is evident, according to Jadick’s award citation. On Nov. 9, 2004, he “ventured into the heart of a raging battle, braving intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire to provide urgent trauma care to seven critically wounded Marines and sailors.”
Consequently, he stemmed the flow of blood from a severe chest wound and stabilized the most critically injured sailor.
The following day, Jadick once more led his team under fire, this time into the Fallujah government complex. Over the course of the next several days, he and his team treated more than 60 critically injured troops, American and Iraqi alike.
Palacios, who was working as a combat engineer in support of 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment’s operations at the time, is one Marine who thinks back with gratitude on the caring doctor who saved his life that November.
“All I remember was the adrenaline pumping and feeling really scared,” Palacios recalled. “Every day, when I see my (gunshot wound) scars, I think about the whole situation that happened back then and all the pain I went through. It was such a relief to have the medical personnel there to take care of us.”
For his part, Jadick remained humbled at being recognized with distinction and pushed the credit down to his subordinates.
“They (corpsmen) really did most of the work,” Jadick stated. “I just rounded them up and said ‘Listen, we have to go.’”
He added that no award, however, compares with the honor he feels while serving alongside America’s uniformed men and women.
“Marines and sailors do this not because there’s money in it, but because it’s what they love to do. It’s an honor to put on this uniform and go to work. That’s medal enough for me.”