Navy Cross Recipient Talks About Experiences with Rota Sailors

Story Number: NNS041122-06Release Date: 11/22/2004 11:42:00 AM
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By Journalist Seaman Cara Maib, Naval Station Rota Public Affairs

ROTA Spain (NNS) -- Navy Cross recipient Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Luis Fonseca visited Naval Station Rota during the week of Nov. 10 to speak about his experiences and to help prepare hospital corpsmen to go into battle.

Fonseca was awarded the Navy Cross in August for actions March 23, 2003, that saved several of his comrades while in the line of fire at An Nasiriyah, Iraq.

During Company C's assault and seizure of the Saddam Canal Bridge, a rocket-propelled grenade struck an amphibious assault vehicle belonging to Fonseca's unit, inflicting five casualties.

Fonseca braved live fire to evacuate the wounded Marines from the burning amphibious assault vehicle and tend to their wounds. He also established a casualty collection point, directed the movement of casualties while personally carrying one himself, and then exposed himself to enemy fire again to treat wounded Marines along the perimeter.

"The job of a corpsman is to go through hell and back for your Marines," said Fonseca. "My brothers needed me, so I was going to be there for them."

Fonseca said he knew what to do when the time came because his Navy training prepared him, but the reality of war is something entirely different.

"As far as basic injuries, treating patients, etc., I was prepared," said Fonseca. But when it comes to dealing with war itself, he said, there is no real way to prepare for that. "It's like asking what I need to do to train you to die," he said. "You can't train someone to experience that, to react to that pressure."

But there is something that he tells anyone who asks him for advice about going to war. "One day you will die. It could be today, it might not be for 100 years, but one day you will die, and the only thing that I ask of you, the only thing your Marines will ask of you, is to just do your job until that day comes.

Fonseca does not believe that he did any more than any other corpsman would have done in his situation, given the ability to focus on the situation at hand. He had the training and the ability to help those wounded, and he just focused his mind on fixing what he could and moving to the next casualty.

"Some of us might have done more than what I did, some of us might have done less, and then you've got those that don't do anything at all because of fear," he said. "There's no training that I can think of to train someone to think that way. You just have to put it into your mindset to act."

There is one main point of advice that Fonseca has learned from his experience and has told others.

"Trust each other," Fonseca said. "That is one of the hardest things, to trust another human being with your life. You've got some of these guys that just got out of school and out of boot camp, they're only there for a week and then they're in combat. For that person to trust another with his life, it's hard. But the guys that have been there for the last three or four years know what they have to do to not only keep themselves alive, but to keep you alive. That's trust."

Fonseca is now stationed at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, N.C., and will continue to talk about his experiences so he can help prepare others for any battles to come.

For related news, visit the Naval Station Rota, Spain Navy NewsStand page at

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