USS PELELIU, At sea (NNS) -- Navy corpsmen aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) celebrated the Navy Hospital Corps' birthday June 17, commemorating 110 years of healing sick and injured service members around the world.
The hospital corpsman rating ranks as the largest and most highly decorated rating in the Navy with 27 Medal of Honor recipients. They served in duty stations around the world.
"It is my pleasure to be here today to congratulate you for being a part of 110 years of incredible history," said Capt. Marcus A. Hitchcock, Peleliu's commanding officer who attended the ceremony. "The history of the corpsman dates back more than 200 years, and it feels good knowing it will still be here 110 years from now."
The ceremony began with a prayer by Lt. Kevin C. Norton, one of Peleliu's chaplains, followed by the Hospital Corpsman Pledge recited by all of Peleliu's corpsmen.
For Peleliu's medical department, this marked a special day as well as a special moment in the history of the ship. While remembering the corpsmen who gave their lives, Sailors and Marines drew inspiration from recent history as corpsmen from Peleliu have deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
"One of the most memorable moments of my life was when I visited the site of a fallen corpsman with a son who had never met his father because [the father] gave the ultimate sacrifice to save a life," said Col. Brian Beaudreault, commanding officer of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit currently embarked on board Peleliu. "We're sure glad to have you along beside us and happy to know you'll be around for the next 110 years."
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (FMF) Mat W. Pagan said he knows the history of his rating and that hospital corpsman will continue to be a part of history.
"Every birthday for us is a chance to remember where those before us have gone, and where some of us have not returned from," said Pagan. "I'm fortunate to work with the Marines, and I'm proud to be a hospital corpsman."
The celebration also featured a traditional cake cutting. Typically performed by the youngest and oldest corpsmen at the celebration, Hospitalman Anthony Desomma and Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/AW) Rolando Perry cut this year's cake.
"This is a time-honored tradition," said Desomma. "I'm proud to be a part of it, and I look forward to living up to it."
After the ceremony attendees watched a slide show of photographs depicting the corpsmen in action while many Sailors swapped stories and enjoyed cake and refreshments.
"Ultimately, [the desire] to give care to a patient is embedded in us," said Chief Hospital Corpsman (AW) Sheryll Martin. "It's our mission, and I'm very, very proud of my staff and the work they do unselfishly."
Peleliu departed her homeport of San Diego May 4 on a regularly scheduled deployment.
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