Battlefield ‘angels’ honored in Washington


WASHINGTON — Combat medics are men and women who swoop into a battlefield and save their fellow servicemember. Sometimes, as bullets fly around them, they risk their own life to help that of another.

On Wednesday, five combat medics were honored by the Armed Services YMCA in Washington at the aptly named event Angels of the Battlefield. Each man and woman being honored after being nominated represented one of the five branches.

“They work in the most challenging, hazardous and sometimes horrific conditions in the world,” Mike Landers, the president and CEO of Armed Services YMCA said prior to the event. “I’m humbled each time I meet these guys.”

• Senior Airman Taylor Renfro, a 23-year-old Air Force medic from Jacksonville, Ill., who has both provided life-saving treatment, and received it. She was saved by another medic when her vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.

• Sgt. Kristopher Ritterhouse, a 26-year-old Army medic from Bullhead, Ariz., who continued to provide medical treatment for others, after being seriously injured himself in a battle in Afghanistan. Despite his injuries, he returned to search for more casualties while under fire.

• Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Toland, a 32-year-old Navy corpsman from Atlanta, who triaged and treated Marines, saving many lives when an IED hit a local bazaar in Afghanistan.

• Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Marchante, a 26-year-old Navy corpsman from Murrieta, Calif., who treated a severely wounded soldier in Afghanistan while under active fire. Marchante used his body to shield the victim from further injury.

• Petty Officer 1st Class Janet Combs, a 31-year-old Coast Guard corpsman from Miami Beach, Fla., who has treated hundreds of patients including two rescued from the water when their helicopter went down, a critical stroke victim, and many others. She is known for motivating her personnel and compassion for her patients and their families.

This is the eighth year that Armed Services YMCA has run Angels of the Battlefield. They have honored 450 medical professionals.

“An even greater number as you know of unsung heroes that risk their live each and every day to provide life-saving medical treatment … You and those you stand for have more than met the demands of your profession with courage and strength,” said key speaker Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr.

The current rate of survival for servicemembers injured in combat is 92 percent, Winnefeld said. That is the highest percentage in the history of warfare. During the Revolutionary War, the survival rate was 60 percent, and that number only increased during the Vietnam and Korean Wars to 75 percent. Winnefeld pointed out that was only a 15 percent improvement in over 200 years.

“With recent advances in battlefield medicine, body armor, equipment and more importantly because of the skills, training and heroic actions of the men and women in this audience” Landers said, “an unprecedented of servicemembers are surviving their severe wounds and injuries.”

More info: www.asymca.org

Twitter: @mjtibbs

The men and women who were being recognized as Angels of the Battlefield with their awards from the Armed Services YMCA in Washington, D.C. on March 26, 2014.

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