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Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Robert Park, a combat trauma management instructor with the 1st Marine Division Surgeon’s Office, poses for a portrait aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 7, 2016. Park teaches Sailors and Marines combat lifesaving skills and was recently selected as the I Marine Expeditionary Force Junior Sailor of the Year.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy Valero

Carrying on the torch

11 Apr 2016 | Lance Cpl. Timothy Valero 1st Marine Division

At a young age growing up in Dothan, Alabama, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class  Robert Park knew he wanted to join the military like so many in his family before him. During the summer of his junior year in high school, Park approached his parents and told them he didn’t want to remain in public school. His goal was to pursue the military and he wanted to attend Lyman Ward Military Academy, a military boarding school in Alabama.

“I completed my two remaining years at Lyman Ward Military Academy and graduated as battalion commander of the school’s [Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps,],” Park said.

After graduation, Park attended Troy University to study criminal justice, but after the first year of school he began to lose focus.
“I partied a little too much,” Park said. “Once my parents found out, they said ‘no, you’re done.’”

Park, no longer a student at the university, applied for classes at a local community college. Frustrated with the feeling of not advancing anywhere, he made the decision to quit college all together. 

“I was not going anywhere there,” Park stated. “I was going to go do what I wanted to do from the start.”

Park followed his childhood goal and the family tradition of military service, enlisting into the Navy in December of 2006. Several of his family members had served as pilots in the military, but a different job caught Park’s eye.

“I was looking at the list of jobs available to me and corpsman stuck out the most, mainly because of my grandfather,” Park explained. “He was a Marine, and when I asked him what he thought about it he told me I should be a corpsman.”

Now a combat trauma management instructor with the 1st Marine Division Surgeon’s Office, Park is given the opportunity to impact the lives of the Sailors and Marines he teaches.

“What motivates me the most is seeing that I’m making a difference,” Park said. “I am the one teaching these Sailors and Marines how to save lives in combat. I love it. I don’t think there could be another job right now that could make me feel as satisfied as I do as an instructor. It’s always something I am going to hold on to.” Park added, “I have the torch now and I am going to carry it on until the next person comes to take it from me.”   

Park said the mentorship and support from the Sailors and Marines he’s had the chance to work with during experiences both good and bad shaped him into the Sailor he is today. Park’s hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed.

Park’s command selected him to represent 1st Marine Division in front of a review board for I Marine Expeditionary Force Junior Sailor of the Year, which is recognition of a sailor’s superior performance, outstanding achievement, exemplary personal conduct and military bearing. 

“I was nervous and happy to be selected,” Park explained. “I was happy to do it because I am representing 1st Marine Division. The nervous part was that I was representing 1st Marine Division. I’d be the face of 1st Marine Division’s junior Sailor.”

The review board staffed by Navy master chiefs selected Park from the pool of Sailors in I MEF to earn the prestigious recognition for his superior performance and outstanding achievements.

Honored by the selection, Park said he finds the most rewarding part of his job not being selected as Junior Sailor of the Year but knowing that someday a Sailor or Marine he had as a student will save a life.

“Whenever something does happen down the line and these Sailors and Marines I’ve taught have to go and do what they have been taught and save someone’s life to prevent names from going on memorials, to prevent names from going on walls, to prevent names from going on memorial bands. That’s the most rewarding thing to me,” Park said.

Park continues to carry the torch and remains focused not on his personal awards and achievements but of the lives that can be saved by the Sailors and Marines he teaches.