The Praying Corpsman

In Tending a Fallen Marine, With Skill, Prayer and Fury, the New York Times has the story of a Navy corpsman (Petty Officer Third Class Dustin E. Kirby), a wounded Marine (Lance Corporal Colin Smith), and the platoon of Marines in which they both served. Kirby and Smith were friends and roommates. When a sniper’s bullet struck Lance Corporal Smith in the head, Petty Officer Kirby did what all good Soldiers, Sailors and Marines do: set aside your personal safety and concerns, focus all of your mind and energy on the mission at hand and use all of your training and skill to accomplish your assigned task – in this case, providing medical care and evacuating the wounded. The corpsman’s job requires him to make quick, right decisions to save lives. He must perform precise medical procedures in the stress and chaos of combat. The moving and tending of 200 pound men in combat gear is strenuous and tiring. Medics and corpsmen are pretty amazing people.

The NYT also relates that the corpsman and Marines prayed. When the reporters witnessed Kirby praying for his Smith, the corpsman told them that the wounded Marine also prayed. “He said a prayer today right before we came out, too. Every time before we go out, we say a prayer. … It is a prayer for serenity. It says a lot about things that do pertain to us in this kind of environment.”

The article says “[Kirby] recited the prayer. There was a few moments of silence. ‘It’s a platoon kind of thing, if you know what I mean,’ he said.” And then Kirby asked the reporters with him to pray as well.

When the platoon returned to its base, it learned that Smith was still alive and in surgery. Once again, the Marines prayed.

A big marine stepped forward with a small Bible, and the platoon huddled. He began with Psalm 91, verses 5 and 11. “Thou shall not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day,” said the big marine, Lance Cpl. Daniel B. Nicholson. “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Then he asked for the Lord to look after Lance Corporal Smith and whatever was ahead, and to take care of everyone who was still in the platoon. “Help us Lord,” he said. “We need your help. It’s the only way we’re going to get through this.” Doc stood in the corner, his arm looped over a marine. “Amen,” he said. There were some hugs, and then the marines and their Doc went back to their bunks and their guns.

The “Doc” in this quote is Petty Officer Kirby. Most medics and corpsmen are “Doc” to the Soldiers and Marines they serve.

Prayer: it’s not just the padre’s job. Prayer is the work of the whole people of God. These Marines and their corpsman have learned that. Let me add my “Amen” to the prayers of all Marines, Soldiers, sailors and airmen serving in imminent danger today.