The day started out badly for Petty Officer 2nd Class Alan Dementer while he served with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment near Nasiriyah, Iraq. And it never got any better.
By the end of that day, March 26, 2003, Dementer would end up with shrapnel in his shoulder and leg, but his actions taking care of wounded Marines would earn him the Bronze Star with “V.”
Dementer’s morning began with a call to evacuate some wounded Marines. As he was preparing to leave, the Navy corpsman found that his rifle wasn’t working properly so he had to scramble to borrow another.
After a couple more trips to treat more wounded through the day, Dementer and a few fellow corpsmen, who were based in Camp Lejeune, N.C., settled in for a quiet evening in their tent.
The unit’s armorer sat working on Dementer’s rifle when mortar rounds started to hit their position.
“All of a sudden, one hit next to the tent and shrapnel hit near the chief,” he said, “and we hit the deck.”
The sailors left the unprotected tent and found themselves in the thick of an enemy attack. “Two trucks were on fire,” he said. “Tracers were flying everywhere.”
Mortars, bullets and rocket-propelled grenades were hitting in the camp.
“Marines were yelling ‘corpsman up’ in a 360-degree radius,” said Dementer, a 13-year Navy veteran. “They were hit all over the place.”
Dementer and the other corpsmen responded to the calls.
“There were so few of us (corpsmen) … [we decided] to bring them to us,” he said about the wounded.
Almost immediately, a nearby machine gun position was hit with what Dementer believes was an rocket-propelled grenade.
One corpsman went to pull the wounded to safety. Dementer went to get his medical supply bag, which was kept in a nearby ambulance.
“I overshot the ambulance,” he said. “Then a mortar landed in the middle of the courtyard not 25 yards away. Shrapnel broke the concrete … and knocked me square over on my back.”
Small pieces of shrapnel had embedded in his shoulder and leg.
“I didn’t realize I was hit,” said the Gladstone, Mich., native. “I rolled over and scooted back.” Grabbing his bag, he made his way back to the other corpsmen.
A wounded gunnery sergeant then came over to their position and said his Marines were pinned down next to the south wall.
“I said ‘Roger that,’ and grabbed my medic bag with extra bandages and took off to the south wall,” he said.
Dementer stopped to patch up one or two wounded Marines, he said, before making it to the wall. There, a lieutenant waited to hoist him to the other side, which was under direct enemy fire.
“There was a couple second lull in the fire,” Dementer said, “and I jumped over the wall.”
He treated six wounded Marines on that side of the wall, eventually evacuating them to the battalion aid station, and was credited with helping 31 wounded Marines that night.
Petty Officer 2nd Class
Unit: Attached to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment
Medals: Bronze Star with “V”
Earned: March 26, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq