‘Heroes on Every Platform’ was the central theme at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) 116th Hospital Corpsman Birthday Ball held June 20 in Bethesda.
“I shall do all within my power to show in myself an example of all that is honorable and good throughout my Naval career,” states the Hospital Corpsman Oath, which corpsmen recited at the affair.
The U.S. Navy Silent Drill Team provided a flawless performance for attendees at the ball, and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Mike Stevens was the event’s keynote speaker.
Hospital Corpsman (HM) 1st Class Delyn Scott, a member of the ball’s planning committee explained why she took the job. “A lot of times our junior Sailors are not aware of our history, the sacrifices we had, who we lost and the importance of remembering them while acknowledging the successes of how far we have come by carrying on the traditions. Part of our tradition is celebrating our birthday, the birth of the Corps, and that is what this event is about — celebrating our tradition and celebrating where we came from.”
Tradition also includes a cutting of the Hospital Corpsman birthday cake by the oldest and youngest corpsman. Following this tradition, Stevens and Command Master Chief Clinton Garrett of the Navy Medicine Professional Development Center, who has served in the Navy for 30 years, cut the cake with and presented the first piece to Hospitalman Natasha Lampson symbolizing the passing on of the Navy traditions and heritage from one generation to the next.
Lampson, born in August 1995, joined the Navy in September 2013, making her the youngest corpsman attending the birthday ball.
“At first it was a shock when they confirmed I am the youngest, and then sitting with the MCPON, it’s amazing,” Lampson said. “I’m just excited to be here. It’s my first ball. It’s nice to be involved.”
Lampson comes from a long line of nurses, which she admitted was a driving force for her decision to join the Navy Hospital Corps. “What drives me as a corpsman is working with the wounded warriors, seeing what they have been through and knowing I have the power to help them. That carries me and drives me to be a better corpsman.”
Even though Navy hospital corpsmen are celebrating their 116th birthday, their service to the nation goes back even further than when the Navy Hospital Corps was officially established on June 17, 1898.
Early in their history, corpsmen were commonly referred to as a loblolly boy, a term borrowed from the British Royal Navy which referred to the daily ration of porridge fed to the sick. In the Continental Navy and the early U.S. Navy, medical assistants were assigned at random out of the ship’s company, and their primary duties were to keep the irons hot and buckets of sand ready for the operating area. According to Navy historians, irons were used by surgeons to close lacerations and wounds, and sand would help prevent surgeons from slipping on the ship’s deck during procedures.
Now, the hospital corpsman is the largest and most diverse rating in the Navy, having 38 Navy enlisted classification codes, according to the Department of the Navy. Approximately 25,000 service members make up the rate of hospital corpsman, and they serve almost everywhere throughout the world on forward operating bases, naval hospitals and clinics and aboard ships, officials from Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery added.
“We are the most decorated [rating in the Navy],” stated HM1 Jason Young, also an organizer for the ball. The Sailor explained why he joined the Hospital Corps. “I personally wanted to be on the frontlines to be able to help people,” Young said. “I am proud I joined the Corps,” he continued.
“There have been 20 ships named after hospital corpsmen, and 22 corpsmen have been awarded the Medal of Honor,” Young added. Also, hospital corpsmen have earned 174 Navy Crosses, 31 Army Distinguished Service Crosses, 948 Silver Stars and 1,582 Bronze Stars.
“Bottom line, Navy corpsmen do it all, but more importantly, Navy corpsmen do it well,” was how Stevens summed up the Hospital Corps.
Not originally scheduled to be the event’s guest speaker, Stevens asked to be part of the event so he could share his own story of his battle with cancer. “I owe my life to my faith in the Lord, the love of my wife, and the selfless professionals at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and military medicine. Last week marked one year [being] cancer free,” he added.
“There is no greater call than to serve in the uniform that we all wear,” The MCPON continued. “So I ask you this: How much greater the call than to serve those who serve?”