Tucked in a nook at the PBY Naval Air Museum in downtown Oak Harbor is a new display that speaks volumes about a group of sailors seen every day but sometimes overlooked – hospital corpsmen.
Three active duty hospital corpsmen were honored Thursday afternoon at the PBY Museum with letters of appreciation for their efforts putting together the new display honoring the service of Navy corpsman and those who received the Medal of Honor.
The effort began with retired Chief Independent Duty Corpsman Richard Hoover, who volunteers at the museum and was looking for a project.
“It’s really history that drove me,” he said. “I decided I wanted the display to be built around the Unit 1 field medical bag and went to Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, told them we were doing this and told them I’d like to get some younger corpsman involved.”
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Michael Anderson stepped up first.
“I love my rate,” Anderson said when asked why he wanted to be involved. “It has a rich heritage and a lot of people don’t know that.”
Anderson donated his field uniform and three field bags to the display, plus he put together a collection of photos of the 28 corpsmen awarded the Medal of Honor. In order to sort the corpsman from officers, Anderson said he had to do a lot of reading about each recipient, which was very humbling.
“I hope this can be an eye-opener, especially to a lot of new, younger sailors who don’t necessarily realize the sacrifices so many corpsmen have made,” Anderson said. “People see us at the hospital every day, but they don’t realize that we are capable of so much more.”
“Everything is carried in the medical bag,” said HM Meylin Serna, who volunteered on the project along with her wife, HM2 Sandra Serna.
“It’s been very interesting,” said Sandra Serna. “Seeing what little they have to work with in the bag and how they make it work in the field.”
NHOH Commanding Officer, Capt. Frederick McDonald, had words of thanks for museum personnel.
“Thank you for recognizing the most decorated group in the Navy,” he said. “When they hear ‘corpsman up,’ they don’t hesitate.”
Navy Hospital Command Master Chief Jeffrey Dell also had words of praise for the corpsmen who volunteered.
“I couldn’t be prouder that you wanted to share our history with the community,” he said.
“I’m surrounded every day by great people who carry on this legacy,” said McDonald. “Sacrifice is given without hesitation by some very young men and women, but they answer the call.”
“It almost brings a tear to my eye,” said Dell. “You hear people say all the time that kids today aren’t the same, but here’s a group that is proud of their heritage in the Navy and want to share it with the community. And for the community to embrace us like this reminds us why we’re here.”
According to Wil Shellenberger, president of the PBY Memorial Foundation, the Navy Corpsmen display will be up for about a year. He said the museum tries to rotate 10 to 15 percent of its exhibits throughout the year to keep the museum looking fresh.
The PBY Naval Air Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Click here for more information.