CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Van Horn was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device, Sept. 17, during a small ceremony aboard Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.
Van Horn is currently on his second deployment in Helmand province. The 28-year-old Akron, Ohio, native wanted to join the Navy to serve his country and do something to help support his family.
During 2010 while on his first deployment in southwestern Afghanistan, the Navy corpsman worked on an isolated forward operating base on the outskirts of Musa Qal’ah, a district that at the time was known for a significant enemy presence. Van Horn was a part of the Navy’s Shock Trauma Platoon and Forward Resuscitative Surgical System, a small group of Navy doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and corpsmen who work in tents that can be set up anywhere and who are trained to treat and stabilize critically wounded casualties prior to transporting them to larger, more sophisticated hospitals.
Now, the 6-year Navy veteran is once again in Helmand province, but this time assigned to the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, a unit dedicated to supporting American and coalition forces currently deployed in Regional Command (Southwest)’s area of responsibility by ensuring they are capable of receiving close-air support or fire support while conducting missions. Although Van Horn is attached to 1st ANGLICO, his mission remains the same as always – be there to treat wounded, injured or ill Marines and sailors.
During a mounted patrol on June 20, 2014, Van Horn’s expertise was called to action.
“We were with a route clearance platoon, embedded with them providing support,” Van Horn said. “The truck directly in front of my vehicle struck an (improvised explosive device). Once the dust settled and we could see what was going on, we noticed the vehicle was blown off the road and was on its side.”
Van Horn’s vehicle commander told him he was needed at the disabled vehicle to assist with casualties. Van Horn immediately opened the back door to his vehicle and made his way to the scene.
According to his award citation, “disregarding his own safety, he immediately ran into an unswept field” to start treatment of a wounded Marine who had been ejected from the Mine-Resistant Ambushed Protected vehicle. After stabilizing the wounded Marine, Van Horn “once again disregarded his own safety and ran to the vehicle, climbed inside the remnants of the turret and began treating the casualties inside, stabilizing them until they were freed from the vehicle.
“His calm professionalism was instrumental as he led the Marines during the triage and recovery efforts, resulting in three casualties being medically evacuated within 30 minutes,” the award citation stated.
While Van Horn has treated many service members who received wounds in combat, this was his first time treating Marines as a first provider on the battlefield.
“It just a natural reaction to want to help the guys,” Van Horn said. “I wanted to treat them all as quickly as possible. Afterward, there are a lot of different emotions, but initially it is just adrenaline and training.”
Van Horn helped save two Marines’ lives that day; unfortunately, three Marines were killed in action. Staff Sgt. David H. Stewart, Cpl. Adam F. Wolff and Cpl. Brandon J. Garabrant, all with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, succumbed to their wounds.
Van Horn was proud to receive his award but said he will not wear the award for himself.
“It’s a fantastic award to receive, and I will wear it for the guys that we unfortunately lost that day,” he said. “It’s a reminder of them. If anybody does ask or wants to know why I got the award and what happened I will tell them so nobody forgets. It’s important.”
Van Horn and the Marines and sailors with 1st ANGLICO, a Camp Pendleton-based unit, have been deployed for approximately five months.
Van Horn says he looks forward to getting back home to his wife and three children and looks forward to continuing his Navy career serving as a “doc” alongside Marines.
“Marines always give you the benefit of the doubt and always respect you right away,” he said. “No Marine will ever let you down. It’s definitely a good brotherhood to be a part of.”