“It was the universal opinion of the frontline infantry that the medics were the bravest of all.” (Steven Ambrose)
These men represent the best ideals of the combat medic or corpsman. Like their predecessors in previous wars, they risked their own safety to save the lives of their brothers-in-arms. These stories are by no means all-inclusive of the heroic actions by combat medical personnel, but they are great examples of what the Docs are doing out there.
(DoD) During an attack by insurgents at the Al Huria police station, Army medic Cpl. Warrick was knocked unconscious and buried under rubble from the explosion of a 200 pound truck-bomb. When pulled from the debris, his legs were on fire and he was in danger of going into shock. When revived, and knowing he needed to continue moving, he went to work treating and assessing Iraqi policemen despite small arms fire all around him. He suffered third degree burns over 45 percent of his body, had absorbed shrapnel and inhaled smoke. He was credited for saving the lives of seven policemen, and received the Silver Star.
(Defend America) Already a Purple Heart recipient, Petty Officer Rubio was serving with a Marine assault team when they were ambushed by rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun fire. Rubio and several Marines were injured. Disregarding his own wounds, he crawled through the withering fire to treat three injured Marines, then instructed others to treat those he couldn’t reach. Then he directed covering fire as he moved the wounded to safe areas for evacuation, all the while under heavy enemy fire. He deflects all talk of heroism for himself, giving that distinction to the young Marine who was mortally wounded alongside him, and those still serving in the Middle East. He was awarded the Silver Star.
Air Force Senior Airman Jason D. Cunningham
(DoD) Airman Cunningham was a search-and-rescue medic when his Chinook helicopter was shot down. The group suffered many casualties, and although the aircraft was still burning, Cunningham stayed inside the helicopter to treat the wounded. He then re-positioned the injured servicemen while the attack continued, sustaining severe injuries in the process. Unable to continue, he directed the care and movement of the injured to another medic, ultimately saving 10 lives, and losing his own. He was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross.
Marine Maj. William D. Chesarek Jr.
(DoD) Although he doesn’t qualify as a medic, Marine Major Chesarek displayed heroism fulfilling a medical mission. Assigned as an exchange office with the Royal Air Force providing communications support to British ground forces, Major Chesarek heard that a vehicle had become disabled and insurgents were approaching. Major Chesarek initially flew very low over the enemy to disperse them and protect the vehicle’s occupants – drawing fire in the process – and coordinated fixed wing air support. Then, learning that a soldier had been badly wounded, he landed in the hot zone to pick him up, despite RPG and small arms fire being directed toward his aircraft. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross from Queen Elizabeth II, the first American to be so honored since WWII.
These stories only scratch the surface. Many medical personnel have risked, and sometimes lost, their own lives to save others. The bravery of the combat medic is renowned, and continues undiminished in the twenty-first century.
Combat medics from all services are our Heroes of the Week