Navy Corpsman Shines Among Marines

Shared by Elsie Durgin on October 23, 2014

I am proud that Daniel was qualifed and honored to serve as a Corpsman with the Marines.  This explains a little about what that means.  Also, I can proudly say that Daniel received TWO 'Navy and Marine Corps Achievement' medals! 

March 27, 2009

Marine Corps News

CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan  — Not every battle can be won. Not every Marine comes out of the fight unscathed. When a Marine finds one of his brethren down on the battlefield, he lets loose a call that has been sounded for decades. "Corpsmen up!"

It was no different for two Navy corpsmen with 3rd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, who were awarded medals Monday for their actions while deployed with Marines in Afghanistan.

Seaman Russel Crabb, a corpsman with Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd Medical Bn., received a Navy Achievement Medal with a combat distinguishing device for his quick reaction following an improvised explosive device attack.

Seaman Michael Bergeron, a corpsman with Company C, 3rd Medical Bn., was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for his efforts to provide medical services to Coalition and Afghan forces while attached to an embedded training team during combat operations.

Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph, which depicts five Marines and a corpsman working together to raise a flag on Iwo Jima, captures the spirit and bond that forms between the corpsmen and Marines in combat.

Bergeron and Crabb see their awards as a result of that bond, one that begins long before the battlefield.

After completion of recruit training, corpsman move on to their military occupational school, known as the Naval Hospital Corps School. There, they receive their basic medical training. Unlike most other Naval occupational fields, corpsmen must go to one more school, the Field Medical Service School at Marine Corps Camp Pendleton, Calif. There, they learn advanced field techniques they can expect to use when embedded with Marines. Skills include communications, land navigation, fighting positions, fire-team movements, patrolling, weapons familiarization and other tactics used in combat.

"This is where we get our first taste of the Marine Corps and what we'll actually be doing out in the field," said Crabb.

The mind set of the Marine Corps begins to take control of the corpsmen in the field service school and continues to grow as they spend day-after-day with the Marines. The relationship growth is mutual among the Marines as well, prodded along by friendly teasing and close-quarters-living.

The bonds remain as the corpsmen move on to their units. However, Crabb says being accepted into a new unit is not always easy.

"Some Marines are hesitant at first, but once you do missions with them, eat with them, break down weapons with them, sleep next to them and hike with them, you just kind of become one of them," Crabb said. "We do what they do as well as the medical stuff so they respect that."

Cpl. Ruben Vasquez, a motor transport operator for the 4th Marine Regiment who was deployed with Bergeron and Crabb said it didn't take long for them to become a part of the Marine brotherhood in Afghanistan.

Working side-by-side produces a transformation in the sailors where Navy blue mixes with Marine Corps green, forging a corpsman of Marines.

"We kind of get corrupted by the Marine Corps, and I like it," Crabb said. "The Marines are so geared towards getting out there and fighting the fight, it gives us a little more ruggedness."

Vasquez said the corpsmen pick up on their new life quickly and sometimes take the lead on the tactical side.

"When they're able to correct us on Marine Corps stuff, like radios and weapons, and at the same time take care of us on the corpsman side, it's impressive," Vasquez said. "We grow with them, because we share experiences and emotions with them."

While in the field, corpsmen are essentially Marines as they patrol, engage in fire fights, clean weapons and do all the things the Marines do on an everyday basis. The difference is the additional care the corpsmen provide for the Marines they fight with.

"While in Afghanistan, we provided medical aid to Marines, Afghan Army, coalition forces and Afghan locals and detainees," Crabb said. "We were doing what Marines do until someone was in medical need."

In combat situations, corpsmen are life-savers, and at the same time can be life-takers. They take and return fire. But most importantly, they listen for the words, "corpsman up."

"My mind set is on the patrol and if a situation occurs and medical assistance is needed you just switch modes," Crabb said.

"We had an IED go off, and Bergeron just grabbed his bag and took off," said Vasquez. "It's things like that, which show the closeness we have out there,"

During combat, a corpsman becomes not just a "doc," but a brother as well.

"If someone is shooting at my Marines I'm going to shoot right back at them," Crabb said. "That's like shooting my family members."

Being a corpsman is arguably the most dangerous job in the Navy, and is by far the most decorated occupation specialty. More than 20 Medals of Honor were awarded to Navy corpsman for actions during battles such as Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Whether it's in the jungles of Vietnam or Okinawa, the deserts of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan, at least one thing has remained the same. Marines know who to call on when they need help in garrison or on the battlefield.

"Having a corpsman is a relief," said Vasquez. "I don't have one doubt in my mind that any of them would've taken care of me no matter what was going on."


A Mother's Day with meaning, by Jeff Pelline

Shared by Elsie Durgin on February 2, 2014

Published in the Grass Valley Union, May 9, 2008.  Written by Editor, Jeff Peline

Tomorrow, in honor of Mother's Day, we will dedicate both Opinion pages and one extra page to Blue Star Mothers and their sons and daughters who serve or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. You will read profiles of them, written by their Moms, along with their photos.

All too often we think about war in broad political terms, not deeply personal ones. We have been planning this project since I joined a monthly breakfast meeting of the group at Paulette's Kitchen earlier this year. I was struck with their spirit: a super support network of "everyone who is the same yet so very different." I wish we had a lot more groups like this.

On Thursday, the Blue Star Moms were present at the memorial of Daniel Durgin to present the family with a gold-star banner, honoring those who have lost a son or daughter in war or otherwise while serving in the Armed Forces.

It marked the first time that the Sierra Nevada Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers has handed out a gold star. About a half-dozen Blue Star Moms were present, including Sue Horne, who is a founding member.

"We offer our deepest sympathy on the loss of your beloved son, Daniel," Lynnette Ellison, president of the group, said at the memorial. "As parents of other young men and women who served this country with Daniel, we extend our support and strength in the hope that we may help you shoulder your burden.

"Enclosed is the Gold Star banner, this country's only symbol of a family's greatest sacrifice. May you proudly display it in your window, a constant reminder to your community that from your home came one of America's finest."

My wife and I attended Daniel's memorial, because his niece is one of my son's best friends in kindergarten. She was going to be the flower girl at Daniel's wedding later this month. We gave her a big hug at the cemetery and saved her a cupcake from later in the day, when she missed her teacher's birthday and a teacher appreciation day celebration.

Children this age are often too young to grasp the full meaning of death. Like many of you, we've found some children books to help them along, such as "The Fall of Freddie and the Leaf."

Leaves changing with the seasons are used to illustrate the difference between life and death. The book reads: "Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die."

In the end, a young child's view of death is so literal. My son created a card on construction paper for Daniel's niece, with all sorts of drawings. On it, my wife drew a picture of the two of them playing together in Pioneer Park, and I drew a picture of them sailing together at Lake Tahoe. My 6-year-old son simply wrote, in his most grown-up handwriting: "I'm sorry your uncle died in a car crash. I love you."

About 400 people turned out for Daniel's memorial at the beautifully remodeled Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Building. An admiral spoke, and at the cemetery, we heard taps, a 21-gun salute and saw the "missing man" aerial flyby. Daniel's mother was clearly touched. The words of the Blue Star Moms stood out as we looked over the oak trees at the Rough and Ready Cemetery: "Everyone is the same yet so very different."

My Friend

Shared by Adrian Pena on May 2, 2013

Daniel Durgin was my friend and my only confidante in Iraq. No one could talk quantum physics like Daniel.


Shared by Elsie Durgin on April 27, 2013

I have a postcard from Dan and he said, "If Heaven isn't what it's cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald".  Dan, I know you are happy in Heaven. 

His music

Shared by Elsie Durgin on April 27, 2013

I have this MP3 player and can only imagine which song he may be listening to.  I am sure it wasn't one he thought his mother would ever hear!

Please don't drive distracted

Shared by Elsie Durgin on April 24, 2013

Please Practice Motorcycle Safety and Save Lives


First Class Petty Officer Daniel Arthur Durgin (US Navy, Fleet Marine Force) was taken from a proud nation and loving family in a traffic accident on April 27, 2008. 

While stopped at a stoplight on his motorcycle in Marysville, Daniel was hit from behind and killed.  He was 33 years old.  The woman who killed Daniel said she took her eyes off the road for a second. 

 Daniel served his country as a Navy Corpsman, including duty in Alaska, Okinawa, Korea, Zamboanga and Iraq.  He was highly decorated, receiving, among many others, two Navy/Marine Achievement Medals.  When he was not deployed, Daniel was a nurse and a molecular biologist, whose master's thesis was nearly complete.

 We ask that you honor his memory by driving responsibly, and always checking for motorcycles.  

A small remembrance of who he was

Shared by Elsie Durgin on April 24, 2013

Daniel was a Navy Corpsman assigned to the Marines. He honored the Military and all it stands for. He enjoyed traveling to foreign countries and he spoke five languages. He had the unique ability to give his undivided attention to whoever he was talking to. When he was not deployed, he was a nurse. He was to be married on May 24, 2008. After he received his Master's degree, he wanted to go back to active duty and become a doctor. Daniel's Master's degree in molecular biology was awarded posthumously. Daniel lived by his credo: "opus, mereo, et adfero (work, serve, and contribute).

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