Care under fire earns corpsman Silver Star-MC Times

By Chris Amos - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Oct 29, 2007 16:42:05 EDT

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Joshua Chiarini works at the base medical clinic at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island. There, he treats students with head colds and sprained ankles.

It’s about as far from Iraq’s Anbar province as you can get, he said, a job that doesn’t quite fit with the Silver Star on his chest.

“It’s a huge difference. It’s quiet. There’s not much excitement. I am an adrenaline junkie. I always have been. It’s hard being away from it all,” he said, adding that he doubts he will volunteer for another deployment.

On Oct. 22, Chiarini, a native of Coventry, R.I., received the nation’s third-highest award for combat valor in a statehouse ceremony attended by Rhode Island’s Gov. Donald Carcieri, two U.S. senators and several state legislators.

Chiarini joined the Navy seven years ago and estimates he has been in at least 20 gunfights. He has ridden in 30 convoys hit by roadside bombs and three suicide bombers. His squad has been fired on by insurgent snipers. He has treated more than 100 wounded Marines and has yet to lose one.
So to Chiarini, what he did in February 2006 was not that different from what he did many other days in Iraq. But Marine officials thought differently.

“He reacted the way he did for one simple reason: to take care of the Marine at his right and the Marine to his left,” said Brig. Gen. David Berger, 2nd Marine Division’s assistant division commander, who presented the Silver Star to Chiarini. “He would not let his fellow warriors down. He used himself to protect his comrades. We can not ask anything more.”

‘Screw it. I am going forward’

On the morning of Feb. 10, 2006, Chiarini — who was with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit — was riding shotgun in the third vehicle of a Marine patrol in Anbar when a roadside bomb detonated near the lead vehicle.

That vehicle sped out of the kill zone, and four of its five occupants — the gunner stayed in the turret to provide cover fire — ran out to take up defensive positions. At that moment, a much larger explosion ripped into the dismounted Marines. An Iraqi interpreter, called Kenny by the Marines, had his arm nearly severed in the second blast. Then insurgents about 400 meters away pinned the Marines down with small-arms fire.

But Chiarini knew none of this. After the first explosion, the convoy had become separated, with the corpsman in one of two vehicles in the back half of the convoy. A second, more heavily armored Humvee was about 100 meters in front, and the lead Humvee carrying the injured Marines was 100 meters farther up. The scene ahead was blocked by dense smoke, and he could not hear above the din of small-arms fire and exploding hand grenades. He heard nothing over the radio.

When his less experienced driver — Chiarini was then on his second tour in Iraq — balked at driving forward into the melee, Chiarini grabbed his rifle and medical kit and ran forward as insurgents fired at him from rooftops.

“He just hesitated. I said, ‘Screw it. I am going forward.’ ” he recalled. “I felt like corpsmen that had gone before me in earlier wars were there. I could feel their hands on my shoulders as I worked.”

Dodging enemy fire, Chiarini ran 200 meters to the wounded Marines. One by one, he directed three of them to limp toward the armored Humvee, while he followed them, laying down covering fire with his M16. Then, with one hand, he carried the more seriously wounded interpreter to the rear, turning his body sideways at times to lay down cover fire.

When they reached the rear of the armored Humvee, Chiarini began treating their injuries.

About five minutes later, a Marine quick-reaction force arrived from a nearby base. Once its corpsmen began treating the wounded, Chiarini grabbed his rifle again, killing several insurgents, including a 12-year-old boy who was spotted with a detonator.

All of the wounded Marines survived; a few weeks later, Chiarini ran into one of them, a corporal nicknamed Redhead, at a Camp Lejeune, N.C., pool hall. Earning the Silver Star was special, Chiarini said, but he got the most meaningful tribute he ever received for his work in Iraq not at the statehouse, but at 8 Ball Pizza more than a year ago.

“Doc, I knew everything was going to be OK when I saw you come through the smoke,” the Marine told him.
Brave man, well done, a deserved award.

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