Corpus Christi, TX. - Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (FMF) Juan M. Rubio, 32, of San Angelo, Texas, was awarded the Silver Star Medal April 27 for conspicuous gallantry against the enemy Jan. 1, 2005, while serving as a Marine Platoon corpsman in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).
The Silver Star Medal is the U.S. Navy’s third highest award for gallantry in combat, following the Navy Cross and the nation’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
Rear Adm. Thomas R. Cullison, commander, Navy Medicine East and commander, Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Va., made the presentation in front of the Naval Hospital located aboard Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas.
During the ceremony, Cullison spoke about the bond that Navy Medicine, particularly Navy corpsmen, share with Marines.
“When we serve with the Marines and the Marines are with us, it’s a relationship that you can find nowhere else. The acceptance between these two groups is like no other,” emphasized Cullison. “The responsibility that we put on our young corpsmen in battle to perform and to save lives is incredible.”
Clarifying that point, Cullison compared the controlled environment that he and other surgeons work in with the help of many others.
“Young corpsmen who go to Field Medical Service School - usually straight out of high school - perform to save lives in combat, just as Petty Officer Rubio did, and they are amazing!” he said.
Representing the Commanding General, 1st Marine Division, Marine Maj. Gen. R. F. Natonski and Command Master Chief Kelvin Carter hand-carried the award to Texas from Camp Pendleton, Calif., and assisted Cullison with the presentation. He also brought a personal message with him for Rubio.
“I talked to all the Marines and Sailors in Iraq before I left, and those back in Camp Pendleton, and they want me to tell you, ‘good job, and outstanding job!’ They are damned proud of you," he said. "Please continue what you have done for our great nation, the Marine Corps and Navy team, and also for the Hospital Corps community.”
Rubio had already earned the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in the Jan. 1, 2005, engagement while serving with 4th Platoon, Small Craft Company, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, U.S. Marine Forces Central Command.
The citation accompanying his Silver Star Medal detailed how a well-emplaced and determined enemy ambushed Rubio and members of his team along the Euphrates River in a complex attack. As Rubio and an assault element swept through the ambush site, insurgents detonated an improvised explosive device. Rocket-propelled grenades and machine gun and small-arms fire followed immediately after the explosion, wounding three Marines.
Realizing the severity of the Marines’ wounds, and bleeding profusely from his own, Rubio low-crawled across open terrain, exposing himself to enemy fire to provide triage. Simultaneously taking care of three urgent surgical casualties, Rubio coached his fellow Marines who were assisting other casualties as incoming enemy fire intensified.
After stabilizing the wounded for casualty evacuation, Rubio directed the platoon to provide covering fire as he and several Marines began moving the casualties towards safety.
Without regard for his own life, he once again exposed himself to the heavy and accurate enemy fire, moving the Marines from the ambush site to the shoreline.
Rubio’s Silver Star Medal elevates him to a distinctively exceptional category of valor among Navy corpsmen since the commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and OIF. Only two others have been awarded the Silver Star, none have received the Medal of Honor, and only one hero has been presented the Navy Cross.
Rubio does not consider himself a hero, though.
While addressing the audience, he revealed who he believes are the true heroes, mentioning his two sons by name and that of the mortally wounded Marine Lance Cpl. who shielded Rubio from 90 percent of the IED's shrapnel during the engagement.
“When people ask me what it is like to be looked upon as a hero, I don’t see myself as such, because Joshua and Mathew and every son and daughter who’s out there and who has family members in Iraq, they’re the heroes,” he acknowledged while fighting back emotion. “They’re the ones who sacrifice their fathers and their mothers. That takes honor, courage and bravery to go home every night and pray that their fathers and mothers come home safe.
"And Brian Parrillo, this is for you, brother," he said. "Thank you for bringing me home.”