CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Twenty-one Medals of Honor, 174 Navy Crosses, 942 Silver Stars, 1,554 Bronze Stars and thousands of other personal decorations awarded to hospital corpsmen in the last 100 years have confirmed the dedication and fearlessness shown by corpsmen throughout their history.
I Marine Expeditionary Force corpsmen here at Camp Fallujah reflected on their predecessors' heroic achievements, captured by Vice Adm. Harold Koenig, former Navy Surgeon General, on the 106th birthday of Navy corpsmen.
The corpsman celebrated their birthday at the Camp Fallujah chapel June 17 with a ceremony that began with a speech from Col. John A. Toolan, the commanding officer of Regimental Combat Team 1.
Toolan spoke about the self-assurance that corpsmen display throughout the Navy and Marine Corps.
"When (corpsmen) bring that level of confidence to the Marine team," that corpsman becomes a Marine's best friend, said Toolan.
After his remarks, Toolen participated in the traditional cake-cutting ceremony, serving the oldest corpsman and the youngest corpsman present the first pieces of cake.
In his statement on the corpsmen birthday Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Vern Clark said, "When (injured servicemembers) become ill, injured or wounded in battle, a hospital corpsman has always been nearby to heal and provide solace."
The ceremony concluded with the ringing of a bell, commemorating all fallen corpsmen from past and present wars.
"Being out in the field I think represents an essence of what the Hospital Corps is all about," said Chief Petty Officer, Paul E. Jones, a chief with Bravo Surgical Company, 1st Force Service Support Group.
During Operation Vigilant Resolve the corpsmen here proved themselves time after time. More than 200 wounded Marines, soldiers and sailors were treated during April alone. It was a sight unlike what some saw a year ago during the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It's different this year," said Navy Lt. Kevin R. Poole, a physician assistant with the surgical company. "Last year we were removed from the sounds of war. This year we are trying to take care of these guys while the mortars are coming in. I call it organized chaos."
For some, that organized chaos helps them understand the value of their traditions.
"Being out here makes me happy to be a corpsman, out here doing what I've been trained to do," said Seaman, Arthur J. Samot, 19, a corpsman with Bravo Surgical Company, 1st FSSG, and the youngest sailor at the ceremony. "I love the green side."