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Winnefeld Honors Corpsmen, Medics at Battlefield Angels Gala

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2014 – The Armed Services YMCA and Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. teamed to honor medics and corpsmen during the Angels of the Battlefield Gala here last night.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the annual Angels of the Battlefield Gala to honor military corpsmen, medics and pararescuemen in Washington, D.C., March 26, 2014. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel Hinton

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The gala, held at the Four Seasons Hotel, honors medical personnel who have saved lives on the front line.

Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke of the courage, skill and quick reactions the medics and corpsmen displayed that brought so many Americans home.

Those honored were: Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Renfro, Army Sgt. Kristopher Ritterhouse, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Toland, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Marchante, and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Janet Combs.

“Corpsmen and combat medics hold a very, very special place in our military,” Winnefeld told the audience during his keynote speech.

The admiral noted that corpsmen and medics have been awarded 75 Medals of Honor. “A corpsman helped raise the flag over Iwo Jima,” he said.

And these young men and women have performed unbelievably well in demanding conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Now, as you know, the colloquial form of address for a hospital corpsman or combat medic is ‘Doc,’ which is a hard-earned sign of respect,” the admiral said. “Let me tell you, not just anyone can be ‘the Doc.’ It takes a lot of dedicated training and hard work.”

In the American Revolution, he said, medics were just fellow soldiers who happened to stop and help others if they’d been wounded. Injuries sustained in combat during the Revolutionary War resulted in about a 60-percent survival rate.

Survival rates improved through the years, and in Vietnam it had increased to about 75 percent, Winnefeld said. He noted that was only a 15 percent improvement over 200 years.

“But the last 12-plus years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us to focus our efforts on the ‘platinum 10,’ providing new kinds of medical care within the first 10 minutes of injury and, of course, beyond,” he said. “Today, if you’re wounded in combat, thanks to these wonderful men and women, there’s a 92 percent chance that you're going to survive, the highest number in the history of warfare.”

And those that are wounded are the most inspiring story of all, the admiral said. They prove every day, he said, that “ability can overcome disability.”

The admiral thanked many of the caregivers and families that attended the event, calling them heroes in their own right.

“And I’m sure that if you were to ask these people who they credit with saving their life, or the life of their loved one, the answer would not surprise you, the first person who administered care, that ‘angel on the battlefield,’” Winnefeld said.

The admiral told the honorees that by placing the needs of their brothers and sisters above their own, they have become their heroes “and you are now our heroes.”

“You, and those you stand for, have more than met the demands of your profession, with courage and strength, and in the words of the Medic’s Creed, ‘You aided all those who were needful, treating friend, and foe and stranger alike,’” Winnefeld said. “I’m honored and proud to have had the opportunity to serve alongside you.”

Renfro is a 23-year-old Air Force medic from Jacksonville, Ill., who has both provided lifesaving treatment and received it. She was saved by another medic when her vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

Ritterhouse, a 26-year-old Army medic from Bullhead, Ariz., continued to provide medical treatment for others after being seriously injured himself in a battle in Afghanistan. Despite his own injuries, he returned to search for more casualties while under fire.

Toland is a 32-year-old Navy corpsman from Atlanta, Ga., assigned to a Marine unit. He triaged and treated patients when an IED hit a bazaar in Afghanistan, ultimately saving many lives.

Marchante is a 27-year-old Navy corpsman from Murrieta, Calif., who treated a severely wounded soldier in Afghanistan while under active fire. Marchante used his body to shield the victim from further injury.

Combs, a 31-year-old Coast Guard corpsman from Miami Beach, has treated hundreds of patients -- including two rescued from the water when their helicopter went down, a critical stroke victim, and many others. She is known for motivating her personnel and compassion for her patients and their families.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS) 

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Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr.

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