Thirty-five years ago today I graduated from the United States Navy Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes, Illinois. I was a member of Company 7316 as we were officially known. I was eighth in a class of sixty-eight other new Hospital Corpsman that crossed the stage that day. We were mostly draftees who chose to join the Navy rather than take our chances wandering in the jungles of South East Asia. Some of us would later serve with the Fleet Marine Force as HM-8404’s and many would later face peril somewhere else. I often wondered if any of my shipmates were injured in Beirut in the 1980’s.
I remember our company commander, Senior Chief Crawford. He had a great laugh and a winning smile. I really bonded with all of those sailors. Some of them were “coasties” as we called them. They were Coast Guard Corpsman. One of them was a guy named P.T. Marshall. He was from North Carolina and was an Army brat. There were other names like Schellhase, Kemether, Bissonette, Stout, Brundage and lots of faces that I remember, but can’t recall the names.. We were all really proud that day that’s we’d made it to graduation. Some of us had orders right out of Corps School. Some like me went home for a month and then got orders. Some of us stayed in contact. Four of wound up serving together at the Naval Air Station in Albany, Georgia at the base dispensary. Some served four years and those of us who were US Naval Reserve served two years after our schooling.
In the past four or five years I’ve found myself wanting to get together one more time, but that’s pretty unlikely. There hasn’t been a February 8th in the last thirty-five years that passes without the remembrance of Company 7316 and my sixty-eight shipmates who pulled together so that we could graduate and serve as Corpsman in the United States Navy.