Naval Hospital Bremerton, Washington –
By Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer -- After a two-year pandemic pause, Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command Bremerton Hospital Corps ball was back in full festival fettle for their 124th birthday celebration.
“It does seem like a long time to come together and congregate,” Capt. Patrick Fitzpatrick, Naval Hospital Bremerton director and NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer addressed in his opening remarks to a majority of the command’s approximately assigned 330 corpsmen attending the event.
The theme of this year’s ball, “Saving Lives Since 1898,” reminded all in attendance that the Hospital Corps trait and tradition has not changed – nor diminished - over the past few years:
“The Navy has great trust in your care. You are the best and the brightest. I salute you,” continued Fitzpatrick. “I am very proud to serve with you. You are competent, capable and ready. You have great resolve in providing care to our Sailors and Marines, as was the case all during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom and elsewhere, many times at the point of impact.”
Overall coordination for the event was handled by the command’s 124th Hospital Corps Ball Committee of Chief Hospital Corpsman Jesus R. Albarran, Hospital Corpsmen 1st Class Paul V. Delacruz, Matthew G. Hanley and Mary E. Neff, Hospital Corpsmen 2nd Class Monica Yineman and Jesus A. Contreras, Yeoman 2nd Class Rachel Guevara, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Chancellor D. Mitchell, Hospitalmen Amy E. Crockett and Haylie E. Gwaltney.
Attention to the Hospital Corps legacy was apparent throughout the event. Even the tables featured hand-crafted displays in honor of hospital corpsman recipients who received the Navy Cross and Silver Star for their courage during battle.
“There’s over 20 Navy ships named after Sailors in our rate. We all know about our Metal of Honor corpsmen, but we thought it was appropriate to also include others in remembering their sacrifice. The volunteers who put together all the display did a great job,” said Neff.
One of the hospital corpsman presented was Pharmacist’s Mate 3rd Class Kenneth W. Durant. While serving with the First Marine Division, November 3, 1942, against enemy forces in the Matanikau River area on Guadalcanal, he worked his way forward with the assault elements despite tremendous hostile fire. After he had administered aid to numerous injured personnel, he halted at the command post in utter exhaustion until a Marine, fatally wounded approximately 15 from the front called for a corpsman. Unhesitatingly, Durant rushed forward in the face of machine gun and sniper fire and was killed before reaching the stricken Marine. He was bestowed the Silver Star for his gallant actions. The Edsall-class destroyer escort USS Durant (DER 389) carried his name.
Guest of honor and keynote speaker, Command Master Chief Loren D. Rucker of 1st Marine Logistical Group, used a distinctive analogy to portray the uniqueness of the Hospital Corps. Loren described the correlation of a bloomed rose bush he had happened upon which had one rose a different hue out of the 13 blossomed on the plant. He noted that exact ratio of one out of 13 equates with the approximately 330,000 Sailors currently serving, of which 24,000 are corpsmen.
“We come from everywhere and get to go everywhere. You stand out wherever you go. How special are we? Who else has a ball? Not the Seabees. Not the Supply Corps. No other of the 93 ratings in the Navy has their own ball,” commented Rucker.
The schedule of events included traditional presentations by the command color guard, honoring those still unaccounted for with the POW/MIA table, calling up the most seasoned and youngest corpsman – Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Arlene Alonzo, leading chief petty officer for Staff Education Training department and HN Alexis Jordan, newly reported several days prior to Navy Medicine Readiness Training Unit Bangor - for cutting the birthday cake, before the Corpsman Pledge was recited by all those current and former members present.
“Take a moment to reflect,” stressed Rucker. “No other rating does what we do and deals with what you deal with.”