USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Sailors and Marines aboard aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) came together in the ship's hangar bay, June 16, to recognize hospital corpsmen and to celebrate the 114th birthday of the Navy's Hospital Corps.
The event was organized by the medical staff to give the 4,600 Sailors and Marines aboard an historic overview of the Hospital Corps and to acknowledge, "the only enlisted corps in the Navy."
"We want to let everyone know that we are proud of what we do," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Lestary Tiana Plair, Enterprise Hospital Corps celebration committee chairperson.
"If we keep our history in the forefront of our minds, then the service we provide on a daily basis will be impeccable," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Tivey D. Mathews, a surgical technician aboard Enterprise.
The Hospital Corps was founded June 17, 1898, during the Spanish-American War. Since that time, Corpsmen have served in every war.
They deploy around the world with Sailors and Marines to provide care at sea, in the air and on land.
An ability to work in the middle of an active battlefield is a characteristic which pertains to few ratings in the Navy. Hospital Corpsmen are one of the few rates that experience working in such an environment.
"We have a lot of corpsmen that have been on the front line," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Crystal James Purnell, aerospace medicine technician aboard Enterprise. "That is [somewhat unusual] when we're talking about rates in the Navy."
Hospital Corpsmen also hold more Medals of Honor than any other rate in the Navy.
"We come from a long, proud heritage in which a lot of people have gone to war and paid the ultimate price," said Mathews.
Vice Adm. Matthew L. Nathan, U.S. Navy Surgeon General and chief, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, wrote in his birthday message to the Hospital Corps released June 15, "The Hospital Corps is the largest rating in the Navy and the most decorated in the United States. Twenty naval ships alone have been named after Hospital Corpsmen."
Corpsmen are highly-trained, professional medical personnel who, together, cover all areas of health and medicine. They work diligently to provide a highly necessary service to the fleet and Marines. Onboard Enterprise, that expertise is evident.
"We perform daily sick call," said Plair. "We provide medical coverage for daily events and evolutions. Whether it's an OC (Oleoresin Capsicum, or Pepper) spray in the hangar bay or replenishment at sea, we provide medical support for the crew. That's what we are here for."
Corpsmen play a variety of roles in the naval community, and many have their own reason for wanting to provide health care to service members.
"My father was a World War II vet and I saw him get the benefits of medical coverage up until the day he died," said Purnell. "I remember being in the hospital with him one day and seeing the corpsmen taking care of him. I thought to myself, 'This is why I do what I do.' We're taking care of our own."
Mathews, Plair and Purnell all agree celebrating the Hospital Corps' 114th birthday aboard the historic Enterprise as it makes its 22nd and final deployment is a huge honor and privilege.
"Honestly, even though we've received a lot of awards and medals for wars fought on land, our Hospital Corps did not originate on the battlefield," said Mathews. "It originated on sailing vessels. At sea is home for us and to be the last crew of corpsmen on the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is a big deal."
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