Sunday, August 19, 2012

Corpsman Honored by Marines as One of Their Own

Petty Officer 3rd Class Clayton R. Beauchamp
You may not know this but there are no "medics" in the Marines. The "medics" that accompany the Marines in combat are (and have always been) Navy Corpsmen. Marines and the Navy corpsmen assigned to them have had a healthy inter-service rivalry for generations, but the trash talking between them has never done much to hide the abiding respect they share. So, the 1st Marine Division this week "mourned the loss of one of its own" with the death of Petty Officer 3rd Class Clayton R. Beauchamp in Afghanistan.

Beuachamp, 21, of Weatherford, Texas, was killed by an improvised explosive device on Aug. 7 while on foot patrol in Helmand province with Marines of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, 1st MarDiv (Forward).

Beauchamp's brother, Christopher Beauchamp, 27, is a Navy Corpsman too, with three tours overseas. His sister, Cheyenne Beauchamp, 19, is also serving in the Navy, currently based in Norfolk, Virginia.

"He had a knack for making everybody around him better," Jack Beauchamp, Clayton's father, said of his son, who signed up for the Navy in high school as soon as he turned 17 and joined after graduation. "Clayton had absolutely no regrets. He believed in what he was doing and what he did. We take comfort in that he was doing what he wanted to do -- serving his country."

Beauchamp's decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Eagle Globe and Anchor device, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy Expert Rifle Ribbon, Navy Expert Pistol Ribbon and Fleet Marine Force Enlisted Warfare Specialist device.

US Navy Corpsmen make up only about 3 percent of Navy personnel, but the all-enlisted Hospital Corpsman rating is the most decorated in the service with 22 Medals of Honor, 174 Navy Crosses, 31 Distinguished Service Medals, 946 Silver Stars and 1,582 Bronze Stars. At least 13 Corpsmen have been killed in Afghanistan, and 29 were killed in the Iraq war.

But these dedicated life savers, the highest honor, is to be called "Doc" by a Marine, said Navy Senior Chief Clarence Conner, the Command Master Chief for the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, California. Conner, 43, who has spent 18 of his 26 years in the Navy with the Marines, "We hold that word ‘Doc' as very sacred. I never heard it til' I was with Recon (Marines). I'd read about it in books. When a Marine calls you ‘Doc,' that's the best thing you can receive. I'd rather be called ‘Doc' than my current rank."

Conner said he didn't know Clayton Beauchamp personally, but he'd heard nothing but praise from his peers in Afghanistan. "He was held in high regard. He was considered a leader," Conner said. "He had that fellowship with the Marines, and once you have that fellowship it lasts forever," Conner said. "It makes a sailor a better sailor. You can always pick out a sailor who's been with the Marines – they walk a little taller, hold their heads higher."

And getting into it with the Marines is part of it, Conner said. "Yeah, they're gonna' rub with you, so you gotta' rub back with them," but the enduring friendships run deep.

Conner said he has a plaque from the Marines with the inscription to a "long-haired, Marine-hatin' sailor who'd go through the gates of hell to get to a wounded Marine."

One of my best friends was a Corpsman, who once made me take a "starting series" of immunization shots all over as punishment for teasing a platoon of recruits lined up to receive their shots. He and I played Chess together many evenings while I was assigned to the training command. He held the title of California Champion and while I never beat him, what he taught me made me a much better player -and what he taught me as a friend made me a better person.

Navy Corpsmen are a special bred -one which we can not do without. They are willing to put their lives on the line with only one purpose in mind -to save the lives of their fellow sailors and marines. I don't know where they get such people, but I thank God for them -- people like Clayton R. Beauchamp.

Live Long and Prosper...

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