View Full Version : Bravery, heroism of Marine medics sets standard

02-01-06, 12:10 PM
General: Bravery, heroism of Marine medics sets standard
Navy corpsmen have one of the most dangerous jobs in Iraq
By Leo Shane III, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Wednesday, February 1, 2006

WASHINGTON — Marine medics in Iraq are more likely to face serious injury or death than are the riflemen they’re working to help, according to the assistant commandant.

Gen. Robert Magnus said Tuesday that statistics from Corps health officials show that the job of the combat medic, or Navy corpsman, is among the most dangerous in the war, in large part because of the situations they put themselves in.

“They’re literally moving in and moving out of the fight to get to their patients,” he said. “They’re among the first to go into battle, and they’re right in the middle of it.”

Magnus’ comments came at the Defense Department’s annual conference on military health care, which brings together top civilian and military medical officials for four days of discussions on the achievements and shortfalls of the system.

In a speech before the 3,000 attendees, he called military medics “a standard of bravery and heroism.”

“For the young men and women who wear the uniform, there is no finer (health care) system for them while they are on active duty,” he said.

Magnus could not provide specific statistics on the number of corpsmen killed in Iraq, but said that they historically have had high casualty rates in combat.

What makes Iraq different from past military actions is the open nature of the war, he said, with injuries occurring in traditionally safe zones as well as the front lines. That means more work and more danger for medics in every aspect of their mission.

Magnus said the vehicles used by corpsmen typically have lighter armor than their infantry counterparts, to allow for quicker movement and response to wounded troops. That has added to their danger in Iraq, because of the insurgents’ use of roadside bombs, or improvised explosive devices.

But the assistant commandant said the medics provide an invaluable service, not only in treating injuries of U.S. servicemembers but also in providing care to Iraqi soldiers and civilians.

“The same standard of care is given to all patients, and they’re doing tremendous work across the coalition,” he said. “It’s more than just the care they give. It’s also the caring.”


02-02-06, 11:11 AM
Local doctor returns from Iraq
Dr. McGurty fully behind U.S. efforts after caring for wounded
by Rick Pezzullo
North County News

For seven months, Dr. John McGurty Jr. had his hands full dealing with the casualties of the war in Iraq.

Serving as a flight surgeon with the Navy Reserves, McGurty, a longtime Peekskill physician and Emergency Room doctor at Hudson Valley Hospital Center, was sent in late March to the Syrian border.

While there, McGurty, 53, treated injured United States Marines and sailors, along with many wounded Iraqi civilians.

"Many experiences I had I will keep forever," McGurty told a roomful of local veterans at Cortlandt Town Hall last Thursday after he received a warm hero's welcome.

"It's something that has made me a stronger person and will help me in my efforts in not only the Emergency Room department but also the community efforts I'm involved in," he said. "The public is not seeing, especially in the medical end, all the good things we are doing."

McGurty said he participated in approximately 60 missions as a flight surgeon on helicopters that flew injured Marines, many the victims of explosive devices, to facilities with advanced medical care.

During the summer months, when temperatures during the day reached 118 degrees and high winds created sandstorms, sometimes helicopters were unable to operate.

"The conditions can be very difficult," he said. "At times, the environmental aspects of Iraq are very challenging."

Often treating patients in tents, McGurty said the more seriously wounded, such as several Marines who were burned badly in a firefight last May, are quickly transported out of harm's way.

In the case of those Marines, they were admitted to a burn unit in San Antonio within 72 hours of the incident.

"My work, in a sense, paled in comparison to the work of many young Marines, who had their finger on the trigger," said a modest McGurty, who served in the Navy from 1981 to 1984 and is a captain with the Reserves.

McGurty said he was shielded from the battlefields and only communicated with Iraqi citizens that were injured through interpreters or security personnel.

"It was far too dangerous for us to be out in villages," he said.

The father of three daughters, the youngest of whom is attending Notre Dame on a Navy ROTC scholarship, McGurty fully supports the efforts of the United States, which declared war on Iraq almost three years ago.

As of Monday, 2,241 Americans have been killed in the war and 16,548 have been wounded.

"Unfortunately, terrorism is a part of this day and age. It's something we can never forget and never let our diligence down," he said. "We are engaged in a war and we can't forget that."

"The morale and enthusiasm of the young Marines is just second to none. It was fabulous," McGurty added. "The experience gave me a new perspective and appreciation of America and everything America espouses."

McGurty received several awards for his tour of duty, including a Global War on Terror medal, and was also honored last week by Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi.

"You are a true hero for what you have done for our nation," Puglisi told McGurty.