Corpsman up!

"Field Medical Corpsmen, the Marines most highly respected brothers."


Speech given by a  1/5 Vietnam Veteran Corpsman to Corpsmen Graduating from Field Medical School at Camp Pendleton before they head off to Iraq .

Field Medical Service School


Graduates, it is a privilege to be standing with you here today. I have been given the highest honor of sharing some of my thoughts and feelings with a group of men and women who I respect and admire very much.  I humbly accept this charge on behalf of all my Corpsmen Brothers and sisters who could not be here. 

Best friends Hn Ivan Heller (rust sweater), Doc Buzz (Squid uniform),
HM3 Larry Padberg (yellow shirt).
Al FMF Grunt Corpsmen the last time we all saw each other.
Both Ivan and Larry were KIA In Nam.

I know where some of you are about to go. As a young HM3 back in 1969 I have never been so scared in my life as I was at times in Nam, but you do what you have to do because YOUR Marines depend on YOU. Remember, Courage is not the absence of fear, but it is our personal assessment that something else is more important than the fear that confronts us. Courage is a necessary ingredient for living everyday without regrets. That is why I am so proud of each of you. You are willing unconditionally, to “Stand On That Wall” and “Stick Up for the Little Guy.”

Most people have no idea what combat is like. It is not a movie where you will get up after and go get pizza. It is fear and heartache. It is praying that you will just survive another day. It is seeing friends die in your arms.


It is the worst of mankind but it is also the best of mankind because throughout any conflict our Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen have been willing to stop people who do not deserve to be called humans at the risk of their own lives. I pray every night that the God of the Righteous will protect all of you. There is quote on an old sentry box in Gilbralter.

“God and Soldiers all men adore
in time of trouble and no more.
For when the war is over and all things righted.
God is neglected and the soldier slighted.”

I have complete faith you will carry on the historic traditions of our beloved Hospital Corps. I want you to know that I would proudly stand with each of you without hesitation but the torch has been passed and it is now your turn. One thing my Veteran brothers and I promise you…you will not be forgotten or treated like they did the Vietnam vet. We will not let that happen ever again.

1/5 Battalion Aid Station - 1969-70

1/5 Docs I first set foot here on Camp Pendleton , 35 yrs ago last April and it changed my life forever.  I spent the next 19 months up at San Mateo with the grunts, and in 1969 I went to Nam . 

San Mateo Gate, Camp Pendleton
Riot Control Training

Almost my entire enlistment with the Grunts and it was one of the greatest experiences.  I was proud and honored to wear Marine greens and I stand before you today only because of the brave Warriors of Delta Company, 1st Battalion 5th Marines who on a number of occasions risked their lives to save me. They were great Marines then but they are even better men today.


Although we serve on every ship and hospital, it is with the Marines that we have made our greatest impact.  The efforts of FMF Corpsmen are legendary.  We are patriotic men and woman, dressed in cammies, wide-eyed, and tough, who went to FMSS then asked ourselves what have we gotten myself into.

Delta 1/5 Corpsmen

Always alongside our Marine brothers, we have been drenched in monsoon rains or nearly passed out in the heat of deserts. We have spent nights on the hard ground or shivering in fighting holes. Some of us have felt the sting of battle, while others have not. We have lived on C rations or MRE's. We all have bitched and griped about everything while we are in but many years later we will realizes that it was the best time of our life and the people we served with will never be forgotten.  

My Platoon
"Buzz", Dale Wilson, Mike McGarvey, Buck Owens
1stMarDiv Reunion - Washington, D.C.

Today corpsmen are fathers, mothers, grandparent, church deacons, college professors, CEO's and work in every part of our society. But what separates US for all others is something you understand but others will not.  It is a special BOND, a BOND that transcends death and is spoken in two simple words…  HOSPITAL CORPS.

You know I teach high school history and my students always ask, what's a corpsmen?  I really get so tired of answering that question.  I always have to tell them we are like army medics but we serve in the Navy and with the Marine Corps. I explain to them that a Corpsman is the guy who as bullets explode all around, kicking dirt up into his face must expose himself to enemy fire to run to the aid of a wounded Marine.  Then when he gets there, he has to concentrate on treating the wounds, even though often times hit himself but calmly and confidently trying to say, I'M HERE MARINE, YOU'LL BE OKAY. 

Ivan Heller
Doc "Ski" Delta 1/5
Larry Padburg

God only knows where that kind of courage comes from.  Maybe this is why so many Marines consider US to be one of them.  Although we never went through boot camp at Paris Island or San Diego, they feel like we are Marines at heart, and many of us are.  They realize that only a fool or a hero would leave a place of safety to throw his body in harm's way for someone they may not be able to save.  But I have never heard a Marine call a Corpsman a fool. . . other names yes but never a fool

Baviello and Cloonan
On the road to Hill 65

I hear many Corpsmen today say the Marines don't respect us like they did you guys. Even my son who was a Marine Sgt said he saw that. But you see we had it easy, for they saw everyday the quiet courage and dedication of their Doc. Believe me. Marines still have tremendous respect for corpsmen. It is there just waiting to be echoed by every Marine. That respect was earned on countless battlefields over the years. If you want it, you must earn it.  You have to earn it the same way so many corpsmen before you did, by being the very best Doc you can be. Be the best physically, mentally and militarily.  Don't look for the break or the easy way out.  Be better then your Marines in everything you do.  Once again OUR BOND.

When my buddies and I graduated from Field Medical School at Camp Lejeune we knew that the training we had just gone though would be used for real in the rice paddies and jungles of Vietnam . 

Al Meyers
FMSS, Camp Lejeune
After last forced march.

You all here now face that same scary thought, knowing that soon you might be called upon to save the lives of your Marines under fire.  As I pondered what I would say here today I couldn't help thinking about the ghosts of the thousands of Corpsmen who died rushing to do just that.  Corpsmen who lived in these same barracks, PT'd on these same fields and humped the same ground as you. I thought what if the walls and trees could talk, the stories they could tell me of the last days of those wonderful and Heroic Corpsmen.

I remembered my own friends and the fun we had.  I remember the training in the hot August sun and humidity, I remember the cargo nets and flying in a CH34.  But most of all I remember, and laughed about getting kicked out of our Motel in Surf City for having 8 poor corpsmen in the room. Or sleeping under a lifeguard tower in the rain on Wrightsville Beach and being told to move by a police officer and spending the rest of the night in the restaurant on the pier. I especially remember the last night many of us were together, saying good-bye, and promising some day
to come back and have a drink, but wondering deep inside if any of us would survive.  Once again OUR BOND.

As you stand here today I'd like you to think of that Bond. THE BOND you share with your friends and the traditions that we are known for.  The traditions written in the deeds of HA Bob Bush, on Okinawa, Pharmacist Mate Joe Marquez on Peleliu, HN John Kilmer, & HM3 William Charette, in Korea , HM3 Don Ballard, and Hm3 Robert Ingram in Nam, all Medal of Honor recipients.  Remember the countless corpsmen who since our founding, risked their lives to save their Marines at places like Belleau Woods, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Chosen Reservoir, Hue City, Kuwait City, Afghanistan and now maybe Iraq.  Think of how our history is one filled with valor.   That's what the Hospital Corps is all about.  That's why it is so special.  It is this unselfish devotion to duty, no matter what the situation or risk.  I want you to reflect on wearing that caduece.

How it changes you from an ordinary sailor and person to one with a special mission.  It makes you stand a little taller and do a job a little better.  Being a Corpsman forces you to understand the great responsibility you are asked to accept…That of saving a persons life.  

It is said that there is no greater glory than to lay down your life for your fellow man.  Well, Corpsmen do that every time the cry of "Corpsman Up" rings out on the battlefield.  I'll tell you, in combat when one of your Marine's is hit you will think of nothing else but going out to save him.  Only afterward will you think, "Why did I do that?"  I guess it stems from the tradition that Corpsmen will always put them self under fire to save their Marines.  We have been given a legacy by those who came before and we must never let them down.  You or I could never look a Marine or fellow Corpsman in the eye again if we did anything less.

Check out the Wall, you'll find a lot of US on it.  Corpsman like:

Dave Porterfield, a high school friend KIA 1966.


Hn Ivan Heller - KIA 1968
Larry Padburg - KIA 1969

buddies who I laughed with, worked with and yes at times got drunk  with.  When I look at you all here I remember so many other Docs, like Al Meyers, French Guidry and Earl Fisher each wears the Purple Heart and numerous medals for valor on their chest.  All were and are good, close, special friends and because of them, and those like them thousands of Marines today can greet each other, have a family and say "Welcome home."  These are the people that all corpsmen should revere and honor.  They are the kind of men we want our children to admire and be like.  They are the spirit of Hospital Corps and if you don't want to or can't live up to what all these men stood for, then maybe you shouldn't be a Corpsman, because you are breaking that bond and letting them down.

Back: Corpsman Bill Cloonan, Mike, Buzz, Larry Andrews,  B/1/5
1stMarDiv Reunion, San Antonio
   John Mullins, PltSgt C/1/5 & Earl Fisher,Corpsman A/1/5


  You see our statue, our tribute, our medals, our thanks is in the heart of every Devil Dog who has walked the face of this earth for they know we will be there when they need us.  That is Your Duty, Your Tradition, Your Legacy YOUR BOND.


Delta 1/5 Corpsmen


Two Corpsmen in Iraq still carry on the Legacy.

Hm3 John Fralish - KIA
Hm3 John House - KIA