Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, delivers keynote address and conducts re-enlistment ceremony for husband-and-wife Navy corpsmen
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, March 17, the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) honored military men and women who administer life-saving medical treatment to our troops on the front lines at the 4th Annual Angels of the Battlefield Gala. ASYMCA is a national nonprofit organization and the leading provider of social and support services to members of the U.S. military and their families. The keynote speaker for the event was Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of U.S. Naval Operations.
ASYMCA worked with the military services to select corpsmen and medics from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Air Force Reserve, who represented their respective services and received awards on behalf of their fellow corpsmen and medics for their dedication and commitment to service.
“Our medical services personnel are responsible for providing first aid and frontline trauma care on the battlefield. They are the wounded warrior’s best friend, the calming presence in the fury of a firefight, the first to respond to pain and tragedy,” said Eugene Habiger, General, USAF (Ret.), chairman of the National Board of Directors of the ASYMCA. “These heroes — these angels — are the first to turn back, to risk their own lives for the sake of others, and we recognize them for their service, their dedication, their sacrifices and their bravery.”
The following service members received awards on behalf of their fellow corpsmen and medics:
SSG Gustavo Rodriguez, Army, from Edgewood, Md.
Staff Sergeant Rodriguez was inspired by his father, a decorated Vietnam veteran, to join the military, and considers being called “Doc” by his fellow soldiers a badge of honor. His 15 years of service has included three tours in Iraq and the receipt of the Bronze Star, which is awarded for bravery, acts of merit or meritorious service. Rodriguez recently applied his training to render care to an Iraqi Army captain who had been shot eight times. He believes that his training makes “it possible for more lives to be saved on the battlefield.”
HM1 Christopher Daily, Marine Corps, from Downington, Pa.
Petty Officer First Class Daily has served the United States Marine Corps for 17 years, including two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. The son of a Vietnam veteran, he says he is proud to be in the military to set a good example for others to follow. Daily was one of four surgical technicians who provided surgical intervention to more than 320 patients during the build-up to Fallujah in 2004; there were zero casualties in the operating room. He has received numerous awards for his service, including the Navy Unit Commendation. This award is given by the Secretary to any ship, aircraft, detachment, or other unit of the United States Navy or Marine Corps that has distinguished itself in action against the enemy with outstanding heroism.
HM2 Luis S. Fonseca Jr., Navy, from Fayetteville, N.C.
The husband of a fellow corpsman and son of a retired soldier, Petty Officer Second Class
Fonseca has served with the Navy for nearly 11 years. He says that being a member of the military, “gives [him] opportunities to give back to the country that has afforded [him] so many opportunities and freedoms in life.” Currently stationed aboard the USS Bataan, which is deployed off the coast of Haiti, Fonseca is the recipient of The Navy Cross, the highest medal that can be awarded by the U.S. Department of the Navy. While on active duty in Iraq in 2003, Fonseca braved small arms, machine gun and intense rocket propelled grenade fire to evacuate wounded Marines from a burning amphibious assault vehicle that had been struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. He calmly and methodically treated and cared for the wounded while awaiting evacuation until his vehicle was rendered immobile by enemy direct and indirect fire. Under a wall of enemy machine gun fire, Fonseca directed the movement of four casualties from the damaged vehicle by organizing litter teams from available Marines, personally carrying one critically wounded Marine over open ground to another vehicle. Following a deadly artillery barrage, Fonseca again exposed himself to enemy fire to treat Marines wounded along the perimeter. After accompanying his casualties to a Battalion Aid Station and briefing medical personnel on the status of his patients, Fonseca returned to care to his fellow Marines that had been wounded in his absence. His timely and effective care undoubtedly saved the lives of numerous casualties.
SSgt Rykeshia Haywood, Air Force, from Baltimore, Md.
Staff Sergeant Haywood joined the military to “do something different, something no one expected of me,” and enjoys the opportunity to help people as a medic. She has been awarded the Army Commendation Medal for providing medical service to more than 300 villagers and 250 forward operating base residents in Afghanistan. The Army Commendation Medal is awarded to a member of the Armed Forces who distinguishes themselves by heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service. Currently stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, Haywood has been a member of the U.S. Air Force for nine years.
HS2 Erica Aberle, Coast Guard, from Brooklin, Maine
Petty Officer Second Class Erica Aberle represents the third generation of her family to serve in the United States military. During her nearly nine years of service, Aberle was a member of a Coast Guard unit positioned in New York harbor for 30 days during the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001, providing security and patrol services. She is grateful for the training she has received that has given her the opportunity to help others and serve as a role model for her community.
SSG Frances A. Hinton, Army Guard, from Rapid City, S.D.
Staff Sergeant Hinton has served the U.S. Army National Guard for 21 years, taking inspiration from her grandmother, a nurse, to become a medic. She believes the most rewarding aspect of her job is the connection she makes with soldiers and their families, some of whom she remains in close contact with long after providing treatment. Hinton was awarded a Combat Action Badge for medically triaging and caring for 36 soldiers wounded by a mortar attack in Iraq.
SFC Nathaniel Parsons, Army Reserve, from San Antonio, Texas
Sergeant First Class Parsons joined the military to pursue the medical field and take advantage of the G.I. Bill. With more than 16 years of service, including a tour in Iraq, Parsons is the recipient of the Joint Service Commendation Medal, presented for sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service for valorous actions in direct contact with an enemy force. Of being a medic, he says, “For me, it’s not just about the Soldier; it’s about the hundreds, and possibly thousands, of people that are connected to that Soldier. It’s about their family, friends and loved ones that rely on that Soldier. What I do makes a difference not just in the lives of the soldiers I care for, but for generations to come.”
HM2 Chris Ehrman, Navy Reserve, from Meridian, Idaho
Petty Officer Second Class Ehrman has served the U.S. Navy Reserve for six years. His grandfathers on both sides served in the Pacific during World War II, one in the Navy and one in the Marine Corps. “The desire to be part of something bigger than myself” inspired Ehrman to join the military, and he chose to become a corpsman because he already possessed the skill set from his civilian job as a paramedic. Ehrman was deployed to Al Anbar Province, Iraq, from April to October 2009, and says the most rewarding aspect of being a corpsman is “sharing the nickname ‘Doc’ with all the corpsmen who came before.”
CMSgt Robert A. Poisson, Air Force Reserve, from Fort Worth, Texas
Chief Master Sergeant Poisson has served the U.S. Air Force Reserve for 28 years, following the path of his father, who served in the Army during WWII and then the Army Reserves until retirement. Poisson initially joined the service for the educational benefits, “but as I look back at my life and military career, I am so proud to have served my country and my service,” he said. Among his tours, Poisson served in Kuwait in 2001 during Operation Enduring Freedom. His “most rewarding tour” was a trip to Honduras where he provided medical and dental care for the impoverished population. “Caring for, preserving and saving lives has been the most rewarding chapter of my life,” he said.
In addition to delivering the keynote speech, Admiral Roughead also presided over the re-enlistment ceremony for Petty Officers Second Class Luis and Maria Fonseca from Fayetteville, N.C. The more than 300 attendees at the annual event included Members of Congress, high-ranking officials from the Department of Defense and high-profile members of the media.
The platinum sponsors of the 4th Annual Angels of the Battlefield Gala were BAE Systems, Health Net Federal Services, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and TriWest Healthcare Alliance. Other program sponsors included Armed Forces Services Corporation, Bechtel, Geico, General Dynamics, Humana Military Healthcare Services, Lockheed Martin, Pitney Bowes, Sodexo and United Concordia.