MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
During the Vietnam War, various Marine units relied heavily on the Navy corpsmen who were the first responders to many attacks and traps. From their exploits during that war and the aspect of going out with someone from a different service to rely on for medical help spawned a pseudo-phrase for these corpsmen: “long-haired, loudmouthed, disrespectful S.O.B’s who would walk through the gates of hell to save a wounded Marine.”
Since then, in every climb and place a Marine has found himself fighting for the freedom and liberties of his country, a Navy corpsman was not far away. For the contributions and sacrifices made in the line of duty, in January 2008 the Corpsmen Memorial Foundation was established with the goal of creating a monument in honor of those brave sailors.
“Since 2008, we have a total of $40,000 - the result of various yearly fundraising activities going on around the base,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Matthew DesChamps, command senior chief of 2nd Dental Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group. “However, that’s not as much as we had hoped over the past near four years.”
The amount needed to be able to break ground for a bronze statue slated to be placed in the Lejeune Memorial Gardens near the entrance of Camp Johnson is $500,000, yet with the total donations only one-twelfth accrued, more support is needed to make this monument a reality.
“The goal we originally had when we started was to be ready to build by sometime next year,” said DesChamps. “While that may not look like a reality now, we’re not stopping until we have enough money - no matter when that may be.”
Abbe Godwin, the artist who designed the bronze Marine at the Beirut Memorial among other nationally-recognized works, will be constructing the Corpsmen Memorial. While the funds are not yet collected, a miniature replica, which sits at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, models the planned look of the statue: a corpsman shielding a wounded Marine while he provides medical aid.
“It really epitomizes what corpsmen are all about,” said DesChamps. “With 22 Medal of Honors and a plethora of other awards, corpsmen have always given their all in support of their brothers-in-arms in combat.”
DesChamps stressed the statue’s proposed location at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens as a fitting place for the memorial - it will sit by the entrance of Camp Johnson, where the Field Medical Training Battalion conducts its operations. When sailors come to FMTB to train to become corpsmen, they will see the legacy of their future just outside their gate.
While fundraising efforts have a long way to go, a multitude of fundraising opportunities are constantly happening, from golf tournaments to motorcycle poker runs to purchasing a brick to be placed in the walkway around the statue.
“There are many ways to get involved - this isn’t a closed-door ordeal,” said DesChamps. “We need new faces with new ideas to better get the word out about the memorial.”
As the Corpsmen Birthday Ball quickly approaches, DesChamps urges those celebrating the rich heritage of the Navy corpsmen be aware that, although they are already honored, their sacrifices made for the Marine Corps and the country as a whole will not be forgotten - especially when cast in bronze.
For more information about the Corpsmen Memorial, visit the website nccorpsmenmemorial.net.