CAMP RIPPER, Iraq --
In a combat environment it is not uncommon to see Navy corpsmen. These servicemembers often times sacrifice their personal safety to ensure Marines receive proper medical treatment in order to remain combat effective. For some corpsmen, the sacrifice is deeper than most people know.
“Since I was a child I always knew that I wanted to be a physician,” said Lt. Cmdr Richard Lynch, regimental surgeon for Regimental Combat Team 8. “My older brother was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was six. So as a child I was always at doctor’s offices with my mother and brother. It was a natural draw for me.”
“When I joined the Marine Corps in 1989 I was kind of following in the footsteps of my oldest brother,” said the Barbados native. Lynch, who worked in administration and avionics while in the Corps, says he almost opted to stay in the Marine Corps, but he knew that he really had a passion to work in the medical field.
“After completing my time in the Marine Corps I obtained my bachelor’s degree in physics at East Carolina University. I also received my medical degree from East Carolina,” said Lynch. After completing 12 years of schooling, Lynch began his residency in Greensboro, N.C.
It was at this time when Lynch decided to join the Navy Reserves. “While I was doing my residency 9-11[The September 11, 2001 Twin Towers attack] happened. After that I decided to sign up as a Navy reserve officer in the Medical Corps.
During his time in the reserves, Lynch divided his time between his job as a physician at a rural health clinic in Wilmington, N.C., and his reserve duties. “As the physician for my reserve unit, I cared for Marines and sailors. In the private practice I worked in a state funded health clinic, in which I provided obstetrical care and family medicine.” While conducting duties as a physician and Naval officer, Lynch was abruptly called to active duty in 2004.
“At the time I got recalled I wasn’t excited. The month before I was recalled I had actually decided that I was going to leave the reserves,” said Lynch. “I felt like I wasn’t making the difference that I signed up to make. I wanted to make a direct impact on servicemembers involved in the war.”
During his recall period Lynch got his opportunity to use his medical training to directly impact those who served during a time of war. After fulfilling his duties at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, D.C., Lynch decided to transition back to active duty.
“I knew that if I stayed in the reserves I would eventually be called back. I knew my skill set would be needed, so I just decided to return to active duty status,” said Lynch.
Although there are obvious differences between working in civilian medicine and military medicine, Lynch says his experience in civilian medicine prepared him for his work in the military. “When you’re working in the rural health clinic you’re limited in the resources that are available. You have to learn how to be unique in order to take care of your patients. The same is true when you’re working in a combat environment,” said Lynch
Lynch said his civilian training also gave him a different perspective on how to practice medicine on a broader scope.
Although people questioned Lynch on why he wanted to practice medicine in the military, he says he enjoys serving the Marines and Sailors in his care. “There’s a phrase ‘not as lean, not as mean, but still a Marine,’ and that’s how I look at myself. I really enjoy working with Marines and taking care of them,” said Lynch. “You won’t find a better bunch of Marines, so I really enjoy working in this environment.”
While some people use their skills in the civilian world to care for people from day to day, there are a few men and women who sacrifice their everyday comforts in order to serve their country. Lynch says that he has no regrets for returning to active duty and is proud to serve the Marines of RCT-8.
For more information on the ongoing mission in Iraq’s Al Anbar province, visit www.iimefpublic.usmc.mil/iimeffwd.