Army medic honored as 'angel of battlefield'
Washington (Army News Service) — An Army medic was recognized for rushing into an intense firefight to help other Soldiers, despite having just suffered a traumatic brain injury.
Sgt. Kristopher Ritterhouse was among honorees from each of the five military services to be recognized during the "Angels of the Battlefield" gala, hosted by the Armed Services YMCA, March 26, at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel in Washington.
Ritterhouse, a native of Bullhead, Ariz., recalled the day of the battle, Sept. 13, 2012, when an explosion knocked him off his feet.
"I found myself lying on the ground wondering what had happened, bitter taste of blood in my mouth. As I got up, my world shook and spun around me," he said.
Even though he was injured, he climbed to the roof of the building, where other Soldiers were located. He administered CPR to a Soldier who was shot. The Soldier, Sgt. Kyle Osborn, was killed in action.
After Osborn was transported out, Ritterhouse, with the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, returned to the firefight to suppress the enemy and search for more injured Soldiers.
"The concussion caught up to me. There's nothing I could do. I started throwing up, I didn't know where I was," he said. "I was told, 'hey you need to go downstairs. There is another medic waiting for you.'"
Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John F. Campbell and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler paid tribute to Ritterhouse.
"Despite his own injuries, Sgt. Ritterhouse went into the fray of the enemy fire to answer the calls for 'Doc!' coming from his fellow Soldiers," said Campbell.
Ritterhouse low-crawled on the roof through a hail of enemy fire to reach the Soldiers, triage a gunshot wound and administer CPR, said Campbell.
Ritterhouse then returned to the rooftop to suppress enemy fire with his fellow Soldiers, he said.
"In doing so Sgt. Ritterhouse displayed the bravery, courage and commitment that personifies U.S. Army medics," Campbell said.
Chandler said he and his wife Jeanne Chandler were proud to attend the event that honored the valiant actions of Ritterhouse and other service members who serve as medics and corpsmen.
Ritterhouse disregarded his own safety in order to provide aid to others, he said.
"He probably should have been evacuated himself and he stayed and treated his brothers and sisters. I think that's pretty amazing," Chandler said.
"He's committed to what he does. He is a true professional," Chandler said.
Ritterhouse said he was only doing the job he loved, being a medic and helping Soldiers during the hardest days of their lives.
"I think the most important thing to take away from this, though, is there is nothing I did in my mind that was heroic, that was valorous. I did my job and it is what any of us would do, medic or corpsman. That's why they call us 'Doc,'" he said, ending his speech, to the applause of the room.
The other medics and corpsmen honored for their dedication and exemplary work as life-saving military personnel were:
Air Force Senior Airman Taylor Renfro, a medic from Jacksonville, Ill., who has both provided lifesaving treatment and received it. She was saved by another medic when her vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Toland, a corpsman from Atlanta, Ga., assigned to a Marine unit. He triaged and treated patients when an improvised explosive device hit a bazaar in Afghanistan, ultimately saving many lives.
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Marchante, a 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.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Janet Combs, a Coast Guard corpsman from Miami Beach, who has treated hundreds of patients -- including two rescued from the water when their helicopter went down, a critical stroke victim, and many others.