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Capt. Michael Krentz, center, commanding officer of Naval Hospital Yokosuka, presents a blue star service flag to Petty Officer 1st Class Ronnie Thomas, right, during a ceremony Friday at the hospital to honor the command’s individual augmentees. At left is Commander Naval Forces Japan’s Command Master Chief Lou Cruz.
Capt. Michael Krentz, center, commanding officer of Naval Hospital Yokosuka, presents a blue star service flag to Petty Officer 1st Class Ronnie Thomas, right, during a ceremony Friday at the hospital to honor the command’s individual augmentees. At left is Commander Naval Forces Japan’s Command Master Chief Lou Cruz. (Chris Fowler / S&S)
Capt. Michael Krentz, center, commanding officer of Naval Hospital Yokosuka, presents a blue star service flag to Petty Officer 1st Class Ronnie Thomas, right, during a ceremony Friday at the hospital to honor the command’s individual augmentees. At left is Commander Naval Forces Japan’s Command Master Chief Lou Cruz.
Capt. Michael Krentz, center, commanding officer of Naval Hospital Yokosuka, presents a blue star service flag to Petty Officer 1st Class Ronnie Thomas, right, during a ceremony Friday at the hospital to honor the command’s individual augmentees. At left is Commander Naval Forces Japan’s Command Master Chief Lou Cruz. (Chris Fowler / S&S)
Each sailor was presented with a customized blue star service flag to commemorate their service.
Each sailor was presented with a customized blue star service flag to commemorate their service. (Chris Fowler / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — People returning from war often bring a piece of it home with them.

Petty Officer 1st Class Ronnie Thomas returned in January from Afghanistan, where he served as an individual augmentee for a forward surgical team.

“Day in and day out helicopters would bring injured people to us,” Thomas said. “Now, I hear helicopters all the time, it’s like I’m tuned to pick out that sound now.”

Thomas was one of 14 Naval Hospital Yokosuka sailors honored for their service during a ceremony Friday.

Individual augmentees, or IAs, are sailors who are assigned to support other Navy units or Marine Corps or Army commands.

Capt. Michael Krentz, the hospital’s commanding officer, defined them as fathers, mothers, husbands and wives. And as family.

During his remarks, Krentz spoke of the critical role corpsmen and doctors have held in the military history. He also addressed post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor’s guilt and the tears shed by those who have lived the horrors of war.

“There are things we need to think about,” Krentz told the audience. “Rule one, is that war damages people. And rule two is that doctors can’t change rule one.”

Then Krentz added a rule of his own: “Rule three, doctors are damaged by rule two.”

Commander, Naval Forces Japan’s Command Master Chief Petty Officer Lou Cruz said that although the IA mission is relatively new in the Navy, it is an important one.

“You got it right,” Cruz told the honorees. “You are true American heroes. Welcome home, we wish you the best.”

After the remarks each IA sailor received a blue star service flag.

Since 2006, more than 100 servicemembers from Naval Hospital Yokosuka have served as IAs.

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