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Navy’s hospital corpsmen celebrate 117-year milestone

By Verda L. Parker | Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany | June 19, 2015

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Sailors at the Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany traded in their traditional uniform of the day for PT gear during an early-morning run to kick off a day of celebration of the hospital corpsmen's 117th birthday at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, June 17.

Roughly 25 of the clinic’s medical staff participated in the run, the cookout and cake-cutting ceremony, which was scheduled to commemorate more than a century of service, which has earned them 22 commendations.

Several NBHC Albany’s clinical staff commented on the importance of the hospital corpsman, the birthday celebration and the honor they share as the most decorated corps in the Navy in both times of peace and in times of war.

“The celebration is really about holding the tradition of the hospital corps,” Lt. Cmdr. Donald Mitchell, senior nurse executive, NBHC Albany, said. “And, I think one of the things is we are the largest corps in the military, especially the Navy. Today is making sure we remember our past, celebrate our present, and look forward to the future with the hospital corps. Those of us who are prior hospital corpsmen want (junior sailors) to understand the significant legacy of being a hospital corpsman. We just want them to set their goals; to aim high and to be there to represent us in the future.

“The services we provide are for eligible beneficiaries,” Mitchell emphasized. “Our main job is to take care of the sick and bring them back to readiness.”

Petty Officer First Class Shaunta Johnson, leading petty officer, Medical Records, NBHC Albany, an eight-year medic, said she has worked in various clinics stateside, overseas as well as aboard ships.

"Other branches of service -- Army and Air Force-- have their medical teams,” Johnson said. “The Marine Corps is the only branch of service who does not; so, we are their docs. Being a corpsman for eight years and being a part of the most decorated corps in the Navy is a great honor. To follow those fellow corpsmen and my fellow shipmates who have actually given the ultimate sacrifice and to push on today is an honor. That is why I'm so proud to be a hospital corpsman.”

Petty Officer First Class Kishaun Jeffers, clinic leading petty officer, NBHC Albany, recapped his years as a hospital corpsman and the significant contribution corpsmen have made to fellow service members.

“Today, we’re celebrating 117 years of the hospital corpsman,” Jeffers said. “I have been in the Navy for 12 years and a hospital corpsman for nine years now. The hospital corps has been around for 117 years; I've only been a part of it for nine years. In that nine-year period, I've been to Japan, I’ve been to Afghanistan and I’ve treated both Sailors and Marines. There have been sailors before me who have done the same. All throughout this clinic, some have served on subs; served with the Army and with the Marine Corps in the desert. It means so much to me (to be a part of) the most decorated corps in the Navy,”

Coordinator for the birthday celebration activities, Petty Officer First Class Ricky Cuevas, leading petty officer, Ancillary Services, NHBC Albany, discussed what the hospital corpsmen recognition means to him and his 12-year career in the Navy.

“Personally, it means a lot to me,” Cuevas said. “All of my heritage, as far as my time in the Navy, has steamed from the fact that I am a hospital corpsman. Every deployment that I’ve gone; every training that I’ve participated in; all of the hardships that I’ve endured through the military and through all of the sacrifices that I’ve seen my brothers and sisters to the left and right of me endure have steamed from the fact that I am a hospital corpsman. I love what I do; I enjoy what I do and I wouldn’t be happier doing anything else.

“Although we do the (physical fitness) run often, today was a celebration of our heritage and what we’ve done over the past 117 years,” Cuevas pointed out. “So, it was a morale builder, especially for our young sailors, to enjoy the fact that we come from a long line of heritage and a line of greatness – 22 Medals of Honor -- all (keeping in line with) the Navy’s rich tradition.”

In his remarks at the cake-cutting ceremony, Lt. Col. Nathaniel Robinson, executive officer, MCLB Albany, gave accolades to the hospital corpsmen for their medical services and sacrifices over the past 117 years.

“Our country and our Corps are forever indebted to each of you,” Robinson said to the corpsmen, as fellow sailors and civilian counterparts attending looked on. “The contribution and sacrifices of those before you and those who will undoubtedly come after you, we greatly appreciate.”

“This is something personal from my heart,” the base XO continued. “Corpsmen are praised for their experience working with the Marine Corps. And, I am sure you know we are a very arrogant bunch when it comes to combat.

“We think that we do it the best – well we know we do it the best,” Robinson said, as attendees burst into laughter. “But, I think corpsmen should hold their heads high. You fight along side Marines and you fight just as well. You should be able to carry that honor wherever you go because you are a part of the greatest fighting force in the world – the Naval forces. When I say that, I mean the Marine Corps and the Navy together.

“I have the utmost respect for corpsmen and I appreciate what you do,” Robinson reiterated. "And, if you’ve ever served in the Fleet Marine Forces Unit, I’m sure you know the appreciation you get when you serve with those units.

“On behalf of myself and the base (commanding officer), thank you to the Sailors of the Naval Branch Health Clinic,” he concluded. “As a Marine and speaking for all the Marines who serve today and who have served, again, I say, ‘thank you’ and most of all, happy birthday.”
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