U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Griffiths has been to every corpsman birthday celebration since joining the Navy, but he said this year was the most special.
Before the 115th Corpsman Birthday 5k run began in the windy, dusty Afghan morning of June 17, Griffiths didn’t expect to see his whole platoon of Marines show up, along with more than 60 corpsmen to run with him.
“They could’ve slept in or worked out on their own, but they all showed up because of what we’ve been through on this deployment,” said Griffiths, a corpsman with 3rd Platoon, Transportation Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 2.
Corpsmen and Marines gathered later to celebrate their birthday at Chapel A, here, with a keynote speech from Command Master Chief Kelly A. McNulty, Regional Command (Southwest) command master chief, and a cake cutting ceremony highlighting RC(SW)’s oldest and youngest corpsmen on the camp.
Dating back to June 17, 1898, when President William McKinley approved the creation of hospital corpsmen as a result of imminent danger of combat in the Spanish-American War, more than 2,000 corpsmen have been killed while saving lives in combat. More than 30 corpsmen have been killed since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
McNulty spoke about corpsmen of the past, but also took the time to speak about today’s corpsmen, particularly those who rush to aid wounded troops in Helmand Province.
“We close another year with three corpsmen who have died saving lives here in Afghanistan,” said the Stratford, N.J., native. “But, there have been more gains than can be said in five minutes.”
She made reference to the heroism Griffiths and his corpsmen displayed when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated at Forward Operating Base Shirgazy and injured more than 50 people. She also told of Petty Officer 3rd Class Stanley Maculewicz who provided life-saving aid to an Afghan National Army soldier shot by an enemy round during a recent operation in Sangin District.
“No community in the Navy has ever paid a higher price than the corpsmen,” said McNulty. “As the most decorated corps in the Navy, they would trade their lives for you any time.”
Griffiths said McNulty “nailed it” when she said there are moments of boredom for corpsmen, who must be ready to spring into action immediately when troops are injured.
“I know I can sleep at night because of the differences we made this deployment,” said Griffiths. “I honestly didn’t know the reputation corpsmen have, but it means a lot the Marines care about us.”