Tribute to Navy Corpsmen

Thanks to Ben Cascio for passing this along…

For those of us who heard and used the term ”Corpsman Up,” it is a term that remains everlasting in both our hearts and our minds. The truth is that we ask and expect far too much from these young men and women who are called Corpsmen, and who like most young Marines were first exposed to the horrors of war in ways most will never forget. Those assigned to the Fleet Marine Forces Marines (FMF) lived the way we did and that of the units to which assigned, and they endured and participated in every hardship and disappointment, as well as the praise and glory awarded their units.

The truth is many in Vietnam were 18 years old and upwards, and were just as fearful of being hurt or killed as the rest were and like the rest failed to receive mail for extended periods of time. Like every other Marine in the ground combat units, Corpsmen dug their foxholes with other Marines, ate the same C-rations as the rest, felt the stings of ants, leeches, bees, and scorpions, and they also dug their own toilets like the rest of us and they also buried their cans, papers, etc., after cooking and eating their meals. They were Just as tired as the rest and at times just as afraid of the unknown as was anyone else. However, Corpsmen still had to check on the sanitation of our locations, as well as tending to the minor and major injuries and ailments suffered sooner or later by all. And those aliments and injuries ran the gamut from diarrhea to coughs and colds, and from Elephant grass cuts which usually festered into very large and ugly sores, to the usual heat related issues such as heatstroke, and on to more serious mental and physical issues to include VD and other issues of that nature.

Our Navy Corpsmen did all that while still carrying the gear needed to care for a platoon or company sized unit as well as carrying their own gear and weapons. And often times they were told to help out the locals with their illnesses, injuries, or wounds, and that in turn meant using up precious bandages and medications, which the Corpsman had carried in his pack and medical bags for his fellow Marines. That then caused the Corpsman to pray or ask help from somewhere that he would not run short of needed medications and supplies, and just in case and when the next firefight, or mine explosion, or enemy mortars or artillery might happen upon his unit.

To ask the above of a young 18-22 year old FMF Corpsman, is asking much more than many in the field ever realized until much later and after the fact. After all, that Corpsman is thought by many to be an “expert” on wounds, or how to handle other major injuries, in addition to which medication might be needed and requested to be used for everything from fleas or hair lice to trench foot or crotch rot or pink eye. While every Corpsman that our units had in Vietnam might not have been quite as astute, courageous, gifted, and the logically- minded individuals we make them all out to be, I would love to have just one more time to shake their hands and hug them all, and to thank them all for that which they did for so many over the years, and especially for those units I was honored to be a part of.


Semper Share:

Facebook Comments


  • Vern Carr

    I spent many of my 12 of my 20 years with the Marine, flying Search and Rescue, Humping the hills with 2nd BN 5th Marines, and 3rd FSSG in Okinawa. Retired in 07/1999. Was playing golf with my 15 year old daughter in 2006 when we were paired up with these two gentlemen in their mid 60s. One was wearing a Marine Corps Ball cap with a Master Gunny pin on it. I introduced my self told him I was a Retired Chief Hospital corpsman ant the units I had been with. He smiled from ear to ear and said “I’ll just call you Doc”, he then looked at my daughter and said “Did you know your Dad is a great man”. I have never regretted serving with the Marines and would to it all again. Semper Fi……

  • cololew

    What did the Marines teach this old Navy guy?, that you can go farther, carry more, and care more then you ever thought possible.

  • John Walker

    HM1 Walker…..Semper Fi to all my brudders…we made a difference in every War. God bless you all.

  • Javier Cascos

    I’m alive by the Grace of God, and the many skilled Corpsmen who went the extra mile to get me back to safety and treatment. Some of them never saw home again themselves, but died ministering to other Marines. God bless them all, and watch their six.

    Sgt. USMC, Vietnam Vet, 1st MarDiv, FMF-PAC, 1965-1969

  • Doc Nowlin Haltom

    Doc Nol 1st Plt., Hotel 2/7, 1st Mar Div., Vietnam 1967-1968….miss my Marines and sometimes I am still stuck in Nam.

    • Earl Dunkleberger

      I Know you Nowlin Haltom..I agree with your comments.

  • Louis Adams

    The 4 years of my 20 as an FMF Corpsman were the best! I still wear my “Corpsman Up” proudly!
    Thanks to my Marine and Navy buddies.
    Happy 4th of July! Peace to all!

  • Louis Adams

    The four years

  • J.t. Whaley

    I have long since retired and I can’t say how long it has been since I felt appreciated as I was with the FMF – although Vietnam was after I joined, I think of my Marines and fellow sailors for the respect and appreciation that they showed me and that I showed them. Thank you for this post – HM1 JT Whaley, USN Retired

    • Sean Creamer

      Yea, I remember those days JT! That’s why I still try to give back to this day for my Marines through my “Craven Wounded Warrior Foundation” I cant find a lot of those old friends….but I have a but of new one now who still call me Doc. S/F to all Marines and fellow Docs. HM2 S. D. Creamer 80-86

  • Ruth Boyce

    Doc Sliney: 11th Marines artillery 1993-1995. I love my Marines. I did my very best because of my respect for them. I was far from perfect and not tested in war and I carry a fear: would I have been able to “Corpsman up” when it hit the fan? My prayer (still today) is yes. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to serve the greatest fighting force that walks this earth.

  • jmcred

    This just gave me a huge war boner! OOH RAH from 2d LAR C. Co 2007-2010

  • Vern Herrst

    Thank you for the memories of being with the Best bunch of people a corpsman could ever hope or pray to be assigned to.
    1st MARDIV, 72 3RD MARDIV 73/74 Camp McT the rock, 2nd MARDIV 79-84
    HMC/USN/RET 8404/8432

  • robert jackman

    Served with 3/9 bn Okinowia Japan 1973

  • Devil doc

    I served with Blt 3/1 lima co 1st mar div during the gulf war I loved my Marines and they loved me I wouldn’t trade one min of that time. Miss those days! Semper Fi

    • Doc Adlam

      I served with 3/1 lima Co 2007 to 2010 greatest guys on the planet.

  • Earl Dunkleberger

    I was with Bravo 1/7 on Hill 10, Hill 55 and Hill 41 near Danang Jun 1967 to Jun 1968 and then Camp Pendleton, CA. I spent more time with the Marines as a Corpsman than I did with the Navy. I always felt more like a Marine than a Sailor..My experiences as a Corpsman helped me become a Physician Assistant and a career that last 40 years. Semper Fi

    • Anonymous

      Good to hear from you.
      Is it possible we went through Hospital Corps School together?
      San Diego. I graduated March of ’67.
      Semper Fi

  • Cpl. Beddoe

    Doc, try contacting Bruce Williams-Burden, author of Luminous Base. His email is

  • Louis E. Adams

    What is the ratio of Hospital Corpsman KIA vs. other military?
    Thanks, (ex-Hospital Corpsman 1954-1980)

  • Doc Kuff

    I wasn’t a corpsman, but I was an Army medic (HHC 1/54th Inf). Of all the things I’ve been called, Doc is the one I’m most proud of. In line with your joke, a friend who was a corpsman asked me if I knew why the Marines used Navy corpsmen rather than training their own people. I said no and he said it’s because if you’re smart enough to be a corpsman you just aren’t dumb enough to be a Marine. Funny thing is, if anyone else made a joke like that about the Marines he would have torn into them.

    • Lisa

      Exactly… only WE are allowed to pick on our Marines. Sort of like if we were in a bar in Germany and a German military person picked on you and I… THEN we’d get along (go NAVY, beat ARMY!)

    • Bcf Stafford

      …..Amen to that….DOC…!!! 😉 -LoL….

  • “Doc” Lenny

    I served with A Co, 1/1, Vietnam 1969-1970. My Marines kept me alive, kept me safe even though I made it difficult at times. Taking on fire, I am up and moving. Thanks to all of you “grunts” that kept me and other FMF Corpsman safe and somewhat sound.
    “Doc” Lenny Morissette

    • Bcf Stafford

      ….Amen…Amen…!! 😉 Well said….DOC…
      (…Reminds me when Iwas w/ 2/4 & 3/4’…
      3rd MarDiv..69-70….after having treated my grunts w / meds for “jungle-rot”…for who knows how long…?! An order came from Battalion
      to sease & decist ALL such proceedures in the field…due to possible allergic reactions
      ….or something to that affect….etc…etc…
      Guess what…?! If my Grunts were happy;
      then I was happy… ” DOC Bernie” (myself)
      ignored Battalion orders….& kept everyone
      else around me happy…( ’cause those Girines were concerned if I was going to comply…or not…!! 😉 )…. ’cause they loved what Doc Bernie was doin’….and didn’t want me to stop my “special” treatments..
      (which really wasn’ t that special…all it
      was penicillin…applied after good cleaning..
      and in 2-3 days it was gone…w / special instructions most followed to the T… 😉 …!!!
      (Yeah…like I’ve said many times before…I’ d never trade those times for anying else…in the world…!!! 😉 ) -Loved It To The End… ;)…. & Love Them For What
      They Did For Me….!!! (More than they will EVER KNOW… 😉 …

  • James Bynum

    I served with F co. 2/3/3 in and around Da Nang 1965-66. To this day it remains the best experience of my life because of USMC grunts. You guys were the best! It changed my life, and, I think it made me a better person. I will always think of myself as a marine “doc”, not a sailer. Semper Fi forever.

  • John Searle

    Time does pass quickly. 1965/66 3rd FSR. I recall a company commander saying, “..that at times,..the Corpsman was more of a Marine, than some Marines.” Being called “Doc” was worth more than any medal. I treasure those times. If there were any cause to believe that I could relive those times, I would not hesitate. Thank you Marines! There never will be another like the Corps. John Searle, HM3

  • Anonymous

    I served with F2\3 in and around Da Nang 1965-66. To this day it remains the best experience of my life because of USMC grunts. You guys were the best! It changed my life, and, I think it made me a better person. I always think of myself as a marine “doc”, not a sailer. Semper Fi forever!

  • Anonymous

    Is it possible you and I met at 1st Med?
    I was initially with Mike 3/7 then transferred to 1st Med to work in the Orthopedic Clinic, my Primary M.O.S. across the walk way from Receiving/E.R..

  • Jerry Collins

    I spent 15 years the Navy 11 of them as an FMF corpsman and was the best time to my military career. My Marines were the best to me the bike ever been in service They would harrass me but they made me feel welcome one of their own. I would go anywhere and follow them anytime into any conflict without hesitation thank you Marines for calling the DOC and letting me serve you. HM2Jerry Collins FMF USN retired. 1980-1995.

  • Jeff Elliott

    16 years in the Navy, 11 as an FMF doc. Best words I have ever heard come from my Marines and its “Thanks Doc.” I love my grunts. Point me to a wounded Marine anywhere in the world, under any condition, and I will get to him or die trying.

    • Bcf Stafford

      …..couldn’t say it better myself… “DOC”…!!! …. 😉

  • One of my Marines told me what thought was a Doc joke. He asked me why God made Corpsman. why? So marines can have Heroes.
    Served proudly Echo 2/1 69 & 1st med batt. 70. I’ve already preferred Marine Corpsman. Doc Bo

    • Vern Herrst

      To the best of my Knowledge only one marine has even been on a major deployment that he wasn’t accompanied by a corpsman, he went to the moon

  • I’m proud to be among gentlemen like you. Thank you for your kind comments about the FMF “Docs”. If you are ever in the Camp Pendleton area I would love to shake your hand, brother. Semper Fi. Harry D. Penny, Jr., HMC(AC/FMF)USN(Ret) Vietnam and Gulf War Vet. Creator of I’m the one Called “Doc”

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Chief. I remember you from 1st MarDiv

  • Anonymous

    2nd combat engineer battalion camp lejeune nc 1984-1987, okinawa japan 1987-1988, camp elmore va. 1988-1989

    • Anonymous

      I was a Corpsman for all of Lejeune, Camp Geiger, New River etc. I wasn’t FMF as women had recently been allowed to go to FMF school. However, I was a corpsman who still had the honor of taking care of my Marines. Like all who earn the title “Doc” and even in non war time periods, just by the nature of a Marines job and of a Docs job I saw wartime wounds, injuries and death of those marines. We are family the two. God Bless Brothers and Sisters, Semper Fi

      Doc Deb Hampton (Hill/Keaton)
      USN HM
      Boot, Orlando FL 1985
      HM School, Great Lakes 1985
      ERD Pax River 1985-1986
      ERD/ outlining clinics Camp Lejeune and all associated 1986-1988

  • Dave Bryson

    Thank You!!
    My Marines helped keep Me Alive!
    No Small Feat!
    I will Forever be Indebted to My Marines!
    Or “My Kid’s” as I often refer to them in the Best Possible Way.
    Thank You Marines!!!!!
    Dave “Doc” Bryson


  • Wayne

    I joined the Navy and spent 3 years in the Marine Corp!
    Semper Fi Marines!
    “thanks for the memories!”

  • Anonymous

    It is you grunts that make the old Doc look good. We try very hard to do the right treatment..

  • Duane Wenrick

    Thank you…..I’m proud of my service with the Marines as a corpsman.

    • Deborah Hampton

      Doc Wenrick, as you should be.