This was on the table at a Celebration of life for a Marine from the 49th Marines of Mission, British Columbia. Home of the 49th Marines. All those that live above the 49th Parallel, in Canada. Of course, this would include every Navy Corpsman that served with the Marines… our DOC's.
I just finished reading this week's (25/26 June) newsletter, and in response to "MARINE Jim McCallum's (the ole gunny)" post concerning corpsmen, I thought I'd share a photo of "Doc" Hall. He was the ranking corpsman assigned to Lima 3/7 during the approximately six months (late December '66 to early June '67) that I had the privilege of serving as that company's Artillery Forward Observer from India 3/11. With a little luck, maybe one of your readers also served with him, and can give me an update on him.
When I was a US Navy Hospital Corpsman assigned to the Marine Corps in Khe Sanh, Viet Nam, I herd many of stores about their Boot Camp experience from the guys in my Platoon.
Last year I had the honor of doing the Boot Camp Challenge obstacle course race, at MCRD San Diego, and had the time of my life. There were 60 of the base DI's to motivate us the through the 3 mile course. OOH RAH!
The first time I remember hearing about Chesty Puller was when I was 15. I was 15 in 1971 when He passed away. At that time my father managed a 7-11 in northern Virginia. Dad had a young Marine that worked for him part time. It turned out that this Marine was assigned as a pallbearer for Marine funerals. It just so happened he was assigned as one of the pallbearers for General Pullers funeral. He was the one who told me who Chesty Puller was and it was 13 years before I became a Navy Corpsman that went to the green side and has never regretted it.
I am not sure that Sgt Grit will allow this story, but it was classic Marine Corps antics…
The Navy was commissioning a new type of hospital, "Fleet Hospital 2". It was a series of cargo containers that could put up a 500 bed hospital in less than 48 hours, anywhere in the world. I was the Doc assigned to the Marines who were tasked with guarding it. We were sitting around in the GP tent one afternoon and somehow the subject of spinal injuries came up. I explained the symptom of priapism. The Marines thought this was hilarious. We had been working with moulage during the exercise. They wanted a moulage for priapism. I donated a wire splint and a large battle dressing, because of course the Marine Corps priapism would be green. The Marines named the moulage, "Semper Erectus". Laughing a lot, we stowed the moulage into a ALICE pack. We all had a 3×5 card stowed in our blouse pocket with a diagnosis written on it, so that the Corpsman at the Fleet Hospital ER could diagnose the injury. We went out on patrol. We were ambushed. The Marines saw the opportunity and gave the moulage to a simulated casulty, along with the 3×5 card marked, "spinal injury". We were all brought back to Fleet Hospital ER… where a delegation of congressmen and congresswomen were waiting to observe the operation. The bomb squad frisked the injured Marine and shouted out "I.E.D.!" The politicians quickly gathered around, expecting to observe a shining example of training. FORTUNATELY the Chief Medical Service Corps Officer was astute. He gave me a wary look and quickly retrieved and read the 3×5 card. With a panicked and quick reaction, he redirected the politicians to view "another part" of the Fleet Hospital's ER. Disaster averted. In hindsight, if the MSC Officer hadn't been so amused (in private), I probably would have been facing a Captain's Mast.
Like all Corpsman, I started at Navy Boot Camp, 1980. Over the next seven years, I was with the Blue Side. But in 1987, the Navy saw fit to train me "Green". Despite graduating from Field Medical Service School in December of 1987, I didn't "get it" until February 1988. I was assigned to the Northern Training Area, Okinawa. Within two weeks, the Marines signed me up for Rappel Master Training. Never having Rappelled before, I was "unsure". When it became my turn to do the slack-jump off the helo-simulator on the cliff, I panicked. The thought of having to slack jump out of an actual helo the following day pushed me over the edge. I walked off the obstacle, not realizing what the reprecussions would be. For the next three months, I was piraha. A non-being. At a command of less than 40 personnel, isolated in the Okinawa jungle, I was in hell, branded a coward. After a month of being cut off from everyone at NTA, I was begging the senior Corpman for a transfer. He said it was impossible. "What else can I do?" He said, "earn back their respect." For the next two months, I stayed in the bush. If there was a training op, I stayed out there, night and day. I didn't expect to be acknowledged by the NTA Marines. And I wasn't. Then one day, three months after my mistake on the cliff, I was making my way across the Commando Crawl obstacle. Halfway across the Shanghai River, I spoke to the Chief Instructor on the farside of the cliff, "I can't take back what I did that day on the cliff Staff Sgt. But given these past two months, I wish I had done the slack jump. If the rope had snapped, I would have been better off than I am now." As I came off the obstacle, I went past him. He didn't acknowlege me. I didn't expect him too. A week later, my senior Corpman took me aside and said, "The Senior Instructor acknowleded your efforts today, saying, "At least he's out there trying." A couple of nights later, we were doing a night rappel into training smoke. The Rappel Master yelled out, "Navy, on rappel!" (I hadn't heard the term "Doc" in over three months). I came off the line and couldn't see my hand in front of my face. Then the Chief Instructor's voice was next to me, "Now that you've grown a pair, put in another request for enrollment. I'm not saying it will be accepted. It's never been done before." And he was gone. The next morning, he walked into his office and found my request chit with a pen, sitting on his desk. A couple of days later, the next class of Rappel Master started. When it came time for the slack-jump, I was all over the process of tying the knots. The lead instructor for the obstacle spoke to me, "I know you want to be the first one down Doc (my first time hearing that title), but I have to go first, then you." The obstacle was being run by a student, but one of the NTA Marines took over. He grabbed me by the blouse and looked me in the eye. "Just do it. Don't think about it." He hit me on the helmet and I jumped. I got to the ground and every available NTA Instructor was on hand to clap me on the back and tell me, "good job, Doc!" From that moment in my life, I strived never again to bring dishonor upon myself, or upon Corpman, or upon my Marines. When I look back, I consider that the day I was "Baptised in The Corps."
I have really enjoyed your newsletters.
Christopher S. Barker III
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class
I was a Corpsman in Viet Nam from 9/67 to 9/68. I was a Delta Med at Dong Ha. During my tour there I learned to respect the Marines I was with and all who came thru the hospital.
We recently did some remodeling and I had to go to the local building supply center. When I was checking out, the guy behind the counter had a Marine Corps hat on. He looked to be my age, so I asked him if he had been someplace hot and dangerous in the 60's. He had. I told him that I had been a Corpsman at D-Med and when I had been there. It turns out that he was wounded several times in early '68 and came thru the hospital. I was in charge of triage at that time and therefore I saw everybody who came thru the doors. No doubt, I took care of him during one of his trips to see us, if not each time. We have been good friends ever since.
It was my honor to serve as DOC with the 1st Mar Div MAG-16 in 1967 as a Med A Vac Doc. SEMPER FI are not just words but the true meaning of a person.
In 1968 After returning from Nam I was assigned to The Urology Clinic at the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia. One day one of my x-ray machines went down and there was a large schedule of patient appointments. I called Commander Sacher, The Chief of Urology, to ask whether or not to start calling to cancel some appts. He came down to our waiting area and I said "you know what Chesty puller would do?" He responded with, "why don't you ask the General." My knees weakened as I turned to see General Puller in front of my eyes. He motioned me to him and said, "Doc I need you to do a favor for me… please go topside and visit my son who is in a bad way… please talk and pray with him." I said, "well General, Sir he's on sick officer quarters and I probably will not be allowed there." He said, "you will be allowed." And, I was of course. Huge day in the life of this Doc!