MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The sailors and Marines of the 2nd Marine Division gathered to celebrate the 108th birthday of the Navy Hospital Corps as the morning colors were raised during a ceremony here, June 22.
The ceremony included remarks from Col. David K. Hough, commanding officer of Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, and a ceremonial cake cutting. The first piece of cake was passed to the oldest sailor present, signifying the admiration and respect accorded those who now carry the proud heritage of the Navy, and then to the youngest sailor, signifying the passing of the heritage to those who follow and will lead the Navy into the future.
“The corpsmen in the United States Navy are in a special position of trust and confidence,” Hough said. “Nowhere else can a sailor of any rank go up to the commander and advise him on what he should or should not do. A good commander will always take that hospital corpsman’s advice.”
The Navy Hospital Corps, as it is known today, was established within the medical department of the Navy under the provisions of an act of Congress approved June 17, 1898.
“You get a good proud feeling thinking of the history of the corpsman,” Chief Hospital Corpsman (Fleet Marine Force) Jason M. Foree said. “You think of the sacrifices made all the way up until recently.”
The corps of hospital corpsmen isn’t only the largest rating in the Navy, it is also the most decorated. Throughout their history, a total of 22 Congressional Medals of Honor were awarded, most posthumously.
“It is no wonder that a large number of hospital corpsmen have been recognized for valor on the battlefield,” Hough said. “They are similar to firemen; when everyone is running from danger, they are running head on into it to help.”
The relationship between the hospital corps and the Marine Corps was established in 1898 when corpsmen were assigned to the Marine Corps Expeditionary Battalion. They landed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War.
“In every case when the United States Marine Corps has been deployed, the hospital corpsman has been standing beside him,” Hough said.”
“We don’t get treated this way on the blue side,” Foree said. “We are just another rate; with the Marine Corps we get put on a pedestal because they look to you. We do the same things, but we are different.”
The corpsman’s history dates back to the Revolutionary War, when they where known as “Loblolly Boys” tasked with assisting the surgeon. Since then, they have assumed many rates including Surgeon’s Steward, Apothecary, Bagman and Pharmacist’s Mate.
“Corpsmen are all things to all people, from draining a blister, to the most extreme cases out on the battlefield,” Hough said. “The corpsman is the one that stays up late at night and listens to the young Marine that received bad news from home. He is the one that is going to do everything for everybody. He is a multi-talented, multi-tasking, extremely capable individual.”