Corpsmen at the Branch Health Clinic Dahlgren and around the fleet celebrated the 116th birthday of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps on June 17. Since 1898, corpsmen have saved thousands lives on battlefields in every climb and place, demonstrating selfless, awe-inspiring courage. They also provide military families with top notch health care at bases around the globe every day.
Corpsmen have served in every war and conflict since the Hospital Corps was established by a law signed by President William McKinley on the eve of the Spanish-American War. The job of aiding the U.S. military’s sick and wounded, however, predates the Hospital Corps.
In the Revolutionary War, enlisted assistants helped surgeons and surgeons’ mates in the Continental Navy. The enlisted assistants were nicknamed from the rations of porridge they administered to patients, called loblolly. Loblolly boy became a formal job title in the Navy Regulations of 1814. The title evolved from loblolly to nurse and later bayman. Senior enlisted assistants received the title of surgeon’s steward in 1842. After the Civil War, surgeons’ stewards were known as apothecaries.
No matter the title, the essence of the job and the courage it demands are the same. Moreover, the cost of doing the job has been steep for the Hospital Corps.
“We’re here to commemorate the birthday of the Hospital Corps and Dental Corps,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Tasha Fausto, assigned to the Branch Health Clinic Dahlgren. “Hospital corpsmen. have had 212 killed-in-action since 1898,” she said. “[Corpsmen] have received 22 Medals of Honor-we are the most decorated service members in the U.S. Navy, so be proud of that.”
Corpsmen also received 174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Crosses, 946 Silver Stars and 1,582 Bronze Stars since the establishment of the Hospital Corps.
Fausto recounted not only the sacrifices of the corpsmen throughout their history, but also the example they set for corpsmen today. “Listen to [them],” she told the corpsmen gathered at the informal birthday ceremony. “You never know where your next duty station will take you for the Hospital Corps.”
Fausto added thanks for the clinic’s civilian employees, some of whom are themselves former corpsmen. “For the civilians who support us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts, because we couldn’t do our jobs here without you guys,” she said.
With that, the youngest and oldest corpsmen in attendance cut the birthday cake. The honors went to Hospital Corpsman Brian Andl, 20 years old, and Lee Williams, a retired dental technician with 20 years of active duty service. For the last nine years, Williams has served Dahlgren as a civilian and currently works as an administrative assistant.
“We are a very proud corps,” said Fausto. “We’re the only enlisted corps in the United States Navy; we’re the only ones who take an oath and we stick to it. So be proud of what you do every day.”