Marines and the Navy corpsmen assigned to them have had a healthy rivalry for generations, but the trash talking between them has never done much to mask the respect they share. And so it was that the 1st Marine Division this week "mourned the loss of one of its own" with the death of Petty Officer 3rd Class Clayton R. Beauchamp in Afghanistan.
Beuachamp, 21, of Weatherford, Tex., about 20 miles west of Fort Worth, was killed by an improvised explosive device on Aug. 7 while on foot patrol in Helmand province with Marines of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, 1st MarDiv (Forward).
Beauchamp's brother, Christopher Beauchamp, 27, also a Navy Corpsman with three tours overseas, went to Germany to accompany Clayton's remains back to the mortuary at the Dover, Del, Air Force Base.
His sister, Cheyenne Beauchamp, 19, also serving in the Navy, went to Dover from her base in Norfolk, Va., to meet their father, Jack Beauchamp.
"He had a knack for making everybody around him better," Jack Beauchamp said of his son, who signed up for the Navy in high school as soon as he turned 17 and joined after graduation.
"Clayton had absolutely no regrets. He believed in what he was doing and what he did. We take comfort in that he was doing what he wanted to do -- serving his country," Jack Beauchamp told the Weatherford, Tex., Star-Telegram.
In a statement, Christine Goss, Beauchamps English teacher at Weatherford High School, said that "he had a lightning-fast grin. He typically was pretty quiet during class discussions, but when that grin flashed, everyone knew he had something interesting and fun to say."
Beauchamp's decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Eagle Globe and Anchor device, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy Expert Rifle Ribbon, Navy Expert Pistol Ribbon and Fleet Marine Force Enlisted Warfare Specialist device.
While they make up only about 3 percent of Navy personnel, the all-enlisted Hospital Corpsman rating is the most decorated in the service over the years, with 22 Medals of Honor, 174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Medals, 946 Silver Stars and 1,582 Bronze Stars. At least 13 Corpsmen have been killed in Afghanistan, and 29 in the Iraq war.
But the highest honor, still, is to be called "Doc" by a Marine, said Navy Senior Chief Clarence Conner, the Command Master Chief for the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Conner, 43, who has spent 18 of his 26 years in the Navy with the Marines, said "We hold that word ‘Doc' as very sacred. I never heard it til' I was with Recon (Marines). I'd read about it in books. When a Marine calls you ‘Doc,' that's the best thing you can receive. I'd rather be called ‘Doc' than my current rank."
Conner said he didn't know Clayton Beauchamp personally, but he'd heard nothing but praise from his peers in Afghanistan. "He was held in high regard. He was considered a leader," Conner said.
"He had that fellowship with the Marines, and once you have that fellowship it lasts forever," Conner said. "It makes a sailor a better sailor. You can always pick out a sailor who's been with the Marines – they walk a little taller, hold their heads higher."
And getting into it with the Marines is part of it, Conner said. "Yeah, they're gonna' rub with you, so you gotta' rub back with them," but the enduring friendships run deep.
Conner said he has a plaque from the Marines with the inscription to a "long-haired, Marine-hatin' sailor who'd go through the gates of hell to get to a wounded Marine."