CAMP HANSEN, Japan - The 69th Reunion of Honor ceremony at Iwo To
(the island formerly known as Iwo Jima) was a tribute to the
veterans who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima and Petty Officer 3rd
Class Traciemarie D. San Juan was standing there with the jitters.
She didn't have heightened nerves from the magnitude of the ceremony
- this time - but because she was called to aid an 80-year-old man
in cardiac arrest.
“It was crazy,” said San Juan. “It was my first time on (Iwo To)
and it was my first time saving someone's life.”
On March 19,
2014, San Juan and Lt. Cmdr. Scott J. LaPanne stabilized a Marine
World War II veteran after the veteran suffered a heart attack while
attending the ceremony. Once stabilized, the veteran was transported
from Iwo To to the Guam Naval Hospital onboard a C-130 Super
Hercules for additional medical care.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Traciemarie D.
San Juan, center, is awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal
at Camp Hansen on July 25, 2014 for her actions in stabilizing a Marine
World War II veteran after he suffered a cardiac arrest while
attending the 69th Reunion of Honor ceremony at Iwo To (the island
formerly known as Iwo Jima). The ceremony, held March 19, 2014, was
a tribute to the veterans who fought at the Battle of Iwo Jima. San
Juan assisted in the stabilizing and transporting of the veteran
from Iwo To to the Guam Naval Hospital onboard a C-130 Super
Hercules for further medical evaluation. San Juan is a corpsman with
Health Service Support Platoon, Combat Logistics Battion-31, 31st
Marine Expeditionary Unit, and is a native of Napa, California.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Ismael Pena)
San Juan is a native of Napa, California. She went to
Navy boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois, March 8, 2011. She
received her basic hospital corpsman training at the Navy
Hospital Corps School, Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas,
from May to August 2011. Her first duty station was at a
women's health clinic at Port Smith, Virginia, from May,
2011 to August, 2013.
“When it came time for my new
orders, my (senior corpsman) suggested that I go
“green-side” since my knees are still good,” said San Juan.
In the Navy, there are two routes to follow as a
corpsman: those who work in a hospital environment or on a
ship and whose care extends to any personnel – known as the
blue side. Then there are the corpsmen attached to Marine
units who undergo combat training while focused on field
medicine – known as the green side.
She completed the field medical service technician course at
Field Medical Training Battalion at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene,
North Carolina, and transferred in November 2013 to Combat Logistics
Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary
Her mettle was then tested at Iwo To four months
During the Reunion of Honors tour that commemorates the
battle of Iwo Jima, there were several corpsmen on standby at
various points of the island to respond to any medical emergency.
San Juan was positioned at the main clinic which is near the
“We set up (our equipment) as if a patient is going to come so
we'll be ready,” said San Juan.
The ceremony started at 8
a.m. and ended around 2 p.m. The island swelled with people who
liked to climb the mountain, according to San Juan.
“I was on
radio watch that day,” said San Juan. “I kept sitting by the window,
listening to all the conversations and the next thing I see is the
(communications) officer running with a radio yelling about a
At that point, San Juan heard a message on the
radio about an old man on the ground. She called out to her nurse
and reported that there might be a medical emergency.
nurse got the ambulance ready while San Juan stuffed supplies into
her bag. When San Juan arrived on the scene, she was informed the
patient had a seizure. The situation did not look good: the veteran
had a faint pulse and he stopped breathing.
“When I got
there, they were going to shock him with a defibrillator, but then
they found his pulse,” said San Juan. She immediately took control
of the situation while her superiors made contact with the C-130s to
prepare for the patient transport. “I was nervous. It was like
trying to solve a puzzle in my mind.”
It was later diagnosed
that the veteran had a cardiac arrest, and it wasn't the first time
By the time the corpsmen got the veteran to the
airfield, the aircraft was ready to go. During the three and a half
hour flight to Guam, San Juan and LaPanne monitored the veteran's
health to ensure he remained stable.
San Juan was never idle
during the flight as she constantly checked vital signs, she ensured
the IV's kept the patient hydrated and made sure he was stabilized,
according to LaPanne who was also with CLR-37 at the time.
“Her ability to adapt to the situation, while staying focused,
helped dramatically,” said LaPanne, a Knoxville, Tennessee, native
who is now with Health Service Support Platoon, Combat Logistics
Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “Even while there were
other people there, she was acting professionally and maintaining
the patient's privacy while stabilizing him.”
The patient, as
described by LaPanne, was a well-spoken and pleasant man who was
part of the Iwo Jima offensive. The veteran has made multiple trips
to Iwo To with his family, reliving memories of the past.
After the lengthy flight, the patient was successfully delivered to
the Guam Naval Hospital.
“It's crazy, because back in the
hospital I would have the duty to pick up the people being
(medically evacuated),” San Juan said. “And I would wonder, ‘Hmm,
what do they do to stabilize someone.' And now I know.”
months after the incident, San Juan received orders to CLB-31 in
April 2014. On July 25, after completing a battalion hike, San Juan
was presented with the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal by
Lt. Col. Eric C. Malinowski, commanding officer of CLB-31, and a
native of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. She was awarded for her
services in stabilizing and transporting the Marine veteran in Iwo
“When you're in garrison, you don't always see or feel
the impacts of a corpsman on a day-to-day basis,” said Chief Petty
Officer Christopher T. Guckeyson, the leading chief petty officer
with the CLB, and a native of Newport News, Virginia. “This just
brings it to the forefront that 70 years (after the battle), Navy
corpsmen are still taking care of Marines. And while ‘Doc' San Juan
would say she was only doing her job, she still helped a Marine in
By U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Henry Antenor
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