A new memorial was unveiled at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens yesterday in honor of Navy hospital corpsmen who have long fought alongside Marines.
The dedication ceremony, held just outside Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, was attended by Navy and Marine leadership, current and former service members and the Navy Corpsmen Memorial Organization, a group that fundraised for the memorial’s creation for over a decade.
“A group of people, both civilian and military, gathered together and discussed the feasibility of creating an organization to build a memorial honoring the Fleet Marine Force Corpsmen,” Kris Burritt, a founding member of the Corpsmen Memorial Foundation, said in a Navy release.
“In January 2008, such an organization was founded comprised of active duty and retired corpsmen, Marines and civilians who pledged to do just that.”
The foundation notes that 2,227 corpsmen have been killed in the line of duty since the inception of the corpsmen rate, according to the release. Walkways around the statue will be paved with bricks cast with the names of those fallen.
The statue itself, which depicts a life-size corpsman shielding a wounded Marine from further injury, was created by artist Abbe Godwin of Colfax, North Carolina, who also created The Peacekeeper statue at the nearby Beirut Memorial.
“The Corpsmen were inspiration for the piece,” Godwin explained in the release. “The young servicemen and women were highly motivated. I tried to do my best to make a work that they would appreciate, and they would understand that the artist loves and admires them.”
The Navy’s hospital corpsmen, which are considered to be the most decorated rating in the Navy, trace their roots back to 1898, according to Naval History and Heritage Command.
“The bond and relationship between Navy Corpsmen and Marines is sacred and unbreakable! They are a united team of brothers and sisters who don the cloth of a grateful nation,” Raymond Applewhite, a Corpsmen Memorial Foundation member and retired senior chief hospital corpsman, said in the release.
“Even though [Sailors and Marines] wear different military uniforms they train and fight together,” Applewhite continued. “The memorial is our way of saying ‘Thank you, Doc’ to those magnificent Corpsmen who, in many instances, risked their own lives to treat injured Marines.”
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media