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122 Years of Heroes, History and Humility Honored
by U.S. Navy Douglas Stutz, NMRTC Bremerton Public Affairs Officer
June 23, 2020

No revelry, no festivities, no gatherings during this pandemic outbreak?

No problem.

Just as hospital corpsmen have adapted and overcome long odds, arduous conditions, and uncompromising dilemmas throughout their storied history, they found a way to acknowledge their Hospital Corps’ 122nd birthday on June 17, 2020 at Navy Medical Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton.

Not an easy task while still focused on helping stop the spread of COVID-19, remaining attentive to strict hygiene practices, adhering to social/physical distance guidelines, and using personal protective gear like cloth face coverings.

“You had to be a little creative to celebrate this day. Since we can’t do the traditional Hospital Corps ball, your committee came together and organized to honor your history and legacy. There’s a lot to be proud of,” said Capt. Shannon J. Johnson, NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer.

The command 122nd Hospital Corps Ball Committee arranged a poster board challenge, open to all hands – active duty as well as civil service – to focus on one of the selected themes, ‘Heroes Among Us,’ ‘History of Hospital Corpsmen,’ and/or ‘Corpsmen and effect on COVID-19.’ NMRTC Bremerton senior leadership of the commanding officer, executive officer and command master chief were the challenge judges.

History shared, legacy learning...Recognizing the Hospital Corps 122nd Birthday June 17, 2020, at Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton centered on a poster board challenge which focused on specific categories of the only enlisted corps such as history, heroes, and service in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 during a time of social and physical distancing protocols in place during the current pandemic outbreak (U.S. Navy photo by Douglas Stutz, NMRTC Bremerton Public Affairs Officer)
History shared, legacy learning...Recognizing the Hospital Corps 122nd Birthday June 17, 2020, at Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton centered on a poster board challenge which focused on specific categories of the only enlisted corps such as history, heroes, and service in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 during a time of social and physical distancing protocols in place during the current pandemic outbreak (U.S. Navy photo by Douglas Stutz, NMRTC Bremerton Public Affairs Officer)

Placing first was ‘History of the Hospital Corpsman’ by Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Julius Ramirez, radiologic technician.

“Just a tremendous amount of history that really factored into the top display. Very well done. All the poster boards were really well done which made it very hard to judge,” Johnson said.

According Chief Hospital Corpsman Jenny Singer, 122nd Hospital Corps Ball Committee advisor, after the committee officers – all volunteers – anticipated that their annual event was not going to take place, they still wanted to recognize their rate and follow the social/physical distancing mandate in place.

“We gathered together and brainstormed to come up with a great idea to honor our Hospital Corps. The poster board challenge turned out to be perfect. We can share our rate with the entire command, get people involved, and still keep our social distance as required,” said Singer.

Judging 122 years of selfless support of other in need...Capt. Shannon J. Johnson, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton commanding officer and Command Master Chief Robert Stockton apprise one of the poster board challenge displays that allowed the command to recognize the Navy's Hospital Corps' 122nd birthday on June 17, 2020. The poster board challenge focused on one of the selected themes, ‘Heroes Among Us,’ ‘History of Hospital Corpsmen,’ and/or ‘Corpsmen and effect on COVID-19' to showcase the only enlisted corps' during a time of social and physical distancing protocols in place during the current pandemic outbreak (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Meagan Christoph, NMRTC Bremerton Public Affairs)
Judging 122 years of selfless support of other in need...Capt. Shannon J. Johnson, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton commanding officer and Command Master Chief Robert Stockton apprise one of the poster board challenge displays that allowed the command to recognize the Navy's Hospital Corps' 122nd birthday on June 17, 2020. The poster board challenge focused on one of the selected themes, ‘Heroes Among Us,’ ‘History of Hospital Corpsmen,’ and/or ‘Corpsmen and effect on COVID-19' to showcase the only enlisted corps' during a time of social and physical distancing protocols in place during the current pandemic outbreak (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Meagan Christoph, NMRTC Bremerton Public Affairs)

Since their inception June, 17, 1898, hospital corpsmen have been the most decorated enlisted rate in the Navy, with members of their ranks recipients of 22 Medals of Honor and 179 Navy Crosses since World War One. They have also received 31 Navy Distinguished Service Medals, 959 Silver Stars, more than 1,600 Bronze Star Medals with combat V for heroism, and countless Purple Heart Medals for their selfless support to those in harm’s way.

“It is my great honor to extend my sincere congratulations as the Hospital Corps celebrates its 122nd birthday. It is a privilege to serve alongside the proud members of the Navy's most decorated enlisted rating and the most remarkable Corps in Navy Medicine, those who ‘hold the care of the sick and injured to be a sacred trust.’ It is with tremendous respect that our Bremerton team pauses today to recognize you for your many accomplishments and selfless sacrifices, and the unwavering devotion to duty you demonstrate every day. I salute you and all Hospital Corpsman,” shared Johnson.

As the Navy’s only enlisted corps, the Hospital Corps ranks have approximately 29,000 active duty and reserve corpsmen, making them the largest rate in the Navy. They serve in a variety of different environments in supporting operational and mission readiness and the warfighter by utilizing the most advanced technology and sciences.

There are also 20 U.S. Navy ships named after hospital corpsmen, including NMRTC Bremerton’s Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Unit Everett clinic, designated in memory of Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class David R. Ray.

Ray was born February 14, 1945 to David F. and Donnie M. Ray of McMinnville, Tennessee. He graduated from City High School in McMinnville in 1963. He was a University of Tennessee Alumni Scholarship winner and attended classes at the Knoxville campus from 1963 to 1966. He voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Navy in Nashville, Tennessee on March 28, 1966 and reported to Recruit Training Command, Naval Training Center, San Diego.

David Ray's first assignment was aboard USS Haven (AH-12). Following his tour on the hospital ship, he served at the naval hospital in Long Beach, Calif.

In May 1968, David Ray requested a tour of duty with the Marines. In July, after training at Camp Pendleton, he joined Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (Reinforced), in the Republic of Vietnam.

It was on March 19, 1969, 51 years ago today, while defending their fire base at Liberty Bridge, Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa against the intense hostile fire of a determined assault, Petty Officer Ray moved from parapet to parapet rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded. He battled two enemy soldiers who attacked his position, killing one and wounding another. Although wounded himself, he refused medical treatment and advanced through the hail of enemy fire to continue his lifesaving efforts.

Petty Officer Ray's final act of heroism was to protect a Marine he was treating. Out of ammunition and severely wounded, he threw himself upon the injured Marine when a grenade landed nearby, thus saving his life when it exploded. In addition to Ray, ten Marines died in the battle. His body was returned to the United States and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery McMinnville, Tennessee.

His citation reads...

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a HM2 with Battery D, 2d Battalion, at Phu Loc 6, near An Hoa. During the early morning hours, an estimated battalion-sized enemy force launched a determined assault against the battery's position, and succeeded in effecting a penetration of the barbed-wire perimeter.

The initial burst of enemy fire caused numerous casualties among the marines who had immediately manned their howitzers during the rocket and mortar attack. Undaunted by the intense hostile fire, HM2 Ray moved from parapet to parapet, rendering emergency medical treatment to the wounded. Although seriously wounded himself while administering first aid to a marine casualty, he refused medical aid and continued his lifesaving efforts.

While he was bandaging and attempting to comfort another wounded marine, HM2 Ray was forced to battle two enemy soldiers who attacked his position, personally killing one and wounding the other. Rapidly losing his strength as a result of his severe wounds, he nonetheless managed to move through the hail of enemy fire to other casualties.

Once again, he was faced with the intense fire of oncoming enemy troops and, despite the grave personal danger and insurmountable odds, succeeded in treating the wounded and holding off the enemy until he ran out of ammunition, at which time he sustained fatal wounds.

HM2 Ray's final act of heroism was to protect the patient he was treating. He threw himself upon the wounded marine, thus saving the man's life when an enemy grenade exploded nearby.

By his determined and persevering actions, courageous spirit, and selfless devotion to the welfare of his marine comrades, HM2 Ray served to inspire the men of Battery D to heroic efforts in defeating the enemy. His conduct throughout was in keeping with the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service."

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