Nasiriyah, Iraq, 2003 – Seaman Apprentice Luis Fonseca was a Navy Corpsman attached to the Marines of 2nd Assault Amphibious Battalion. It was his very first deployment, and not everyone was happy about it.
“I’m only going to tell you this once. I don’t like corpsman. Stay out of my way.” GySgt David Myers
Don’t worry, Myers soon changed his tune. On March 23, 2003, the unit was ambushed as they moved to secure the Saddam Canal Bridge in Nasiriyah. If it weren’t for the 23 year old Navy Corpsman, there would have been more casualties than just the 18 Marines who died.
The Battle of Nasiriyah
The Marine Corps Times reported,
With all hell breaking loose, an amphibious assault vehicle to Fonseca’s front was struck by a rocket propelled grenade, inflicting five casualties.
Seeing the vehicle beginning to catch fire, the platoon sergeant, then-Gunnery Sgt. David Myers, called for Fonseca, and the young corpsman on his first deployment sprung into action, grabbing his medical bag and sprinting through a wall of small arms fire on his way to the disabled vehicle.
When he arrived, he saw all five Marines were grievously wounded. Fonseca got to work immediately.
“I noticed I had two patients with partial lower-leg amputations, one with flash burns to his eyes, and all had shrapnel wounds,” the corpsman said. “I applied tourniquets on the two Marines with the partial leg amputations and instructed the other Marines around to apply battle dressings on the others that were wounded.”
Fonseca then coordinated the removal of the wounded Marines from the kill zone to a vehicle where the enemy ambush was less concentrated. After administering morphine to the two with the most urgent medical needs, he received a call that another vehicle had been hit.
Because the convoy had broken up at the outset of the firefight, the disabled vehicle he was looking for wasn’t where it was supposed to be. Exposed and unsure where it was, Fonseca ran through more fire to get back to his vehicle.
Just as he arrived, four direct hits blasted the amtrak, creating havoc and dust-filled confusion.
“Two of them were on our right side,” he said. “One was on our center top hatch. All three were … 122 mm mortar rounds. The fourth and final round that disabled the truck was a recoilless rifle round that blew up our transmission.”
All wounded Marines from Fonseca’s vehicle, except one, were quickly transferred out of the kill zone at the direction of the corpsman.
“I picked up the last Marine … and carried him to a ditch,” Fonseca said. “The Marine and I sat in the ditch for about 30 minutes before I could get another vehicle to pick us up and drive us out of there.”
Once that Marine was picked up, Fonseca rejoined his platoon in the fight, a brutal clash that would wind up lasting over six hours.
On top of the 18 killed, “fifteen others were wounded and left the battlefield, and about 10 others [who] were wounded … stayed,” Fonseca said.
Luis Fonseca earned the Navy Cross for pulling at least 12 Marines out of the battle that day. He did it without thinking about himself. The GySgy who “didn’t like corpsmen” ran up to him and gave him a big hug, and eventually became one of Fonseca’s biggest mentors.
“The job of a corpsman is to go through hell and back for your Marines. My brothers needed me, so I was going to be there for them. As long as I was alive, I would keep working, even if it meant my life. I wish I could have done more.” Fonseca in a release.
That’s what heroes are all about. Fonseca went on to more deployments in both Iraq and Afghanistan.