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HN Kilmer Honored by NMTSC, VFW

16 August 2022

From Petty Officer 1st Class David Kolmel

(Aug. 13, 2022) SAN ANTONIO, Texas – "I owe 70 years of my life to a 21-year-old Navy corpsman who died days short of his 22nd birthday" hung in the air during a ceremony honoring the 70th anniversary of Hospitalman John Edward "Jackie" Kilmer's heroic actions on a mountain top in Korea.As the battle raged around him, Kilmer moved from one position
(Aug. 13, 2022) SAN ANTONIO, Texas – "I owe 70 years of my life to a 21-year-old Navy corpsman who died days short of his 22nd birthday" hung in the air during a ceremony honoring the 70th anniversary of Hospitalman John Edward "Jackie" Kilmer's heroic actions on a mountain top in Korea.

As the battle raged around him, Kilmer moved from one position to another, administering aid to the wounded and expediting their evacuation. All the time he was wounded by mortar fragments while moving patients.

Two days shy of his 22nd birthday, as another barrage of enemy mortar, artillery and sniper fire engulfed the area, Kilmer used his body to shield a badly wounded Marine he was tending to at the “Battle of Bunker Hill” in Korea on Aug. 12, 1952. These actions earned the hospitalman the Medal of Honor.
220813-N-IT566-0039 SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Aug. 13, 2022) Joseph Barna, a Marine that served with Hospitalman John E. Kilmer in Korea, explains how Kilmer saved his life during a graveside ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of his death. Barna also shared other stories of their time together in Korea. Kilmer was killed, during the attack on “Bunker Hill”, while using his body to shield another man from enemy fire. On June 18, 1953, Kilmer’s mother and brother were presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 12, 1952. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel/Released)
220813-N-IT566-0039 SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Aug. 13, 2022) Joseph Barna, a Marine that served with Hospitalman John E. Kilmer in Korea, explains how Kilmer saved his life during a graveside ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of his death. Barna also shared other stories of their time together in Korea. Kilmer was killed, during the attack on “Bunker Hill”, while using his body to shield another man from enemy fire. On June 18, 1953, Kilmer’s mother and brother were presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 12, 1952. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel/Released)
220813-N-IT566-0039 SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Aug. 13, 2022) Joseph Barna, a Marine that served with Hospitalman John E. Kilmer in Korea, explains how Kilmer saved his life during a graveside ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of his death. Barna also shared other stories of their time together in Korea. Kilmer was killed, during the attack on “Bunker Hill”, while using his body to shield another man from enemy fire. On June 18, 1953, Kilmer’s mother and brother were presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 12, 1952. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel/Released)
220813-N-IT566-0047
220813-N-IT566-0039 SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Aug. 13, 2022) Joseph Barna, a Marine that served with Hospitalman John E. Kilmer in Korea, explains how Kilmer saved his life during a graveside ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of his death. Barna also shared other stories of their time together in Korea. Kilmer was killed, during the attack on “Bunker Hill”, while using his body to shield another man from enemy fire. On June 18, 1953, Kilmer’s mother and brother were presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 12, 1952. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel/Released)
Photo By: Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel
VIRIN: 220813-N-IT566-0047

Across from a building recently named after Kilmer, Navy Medicine Training Support Center (NMTSC) hosted a ceremony honoring the 70th anniversary of Kilmer's actions, in which hospital corpsmen and students attending the Hospital Corpsman Basic Course honored his sacrifice by conducting a wreath-laying ceremony, playing of taps and conducted the final roll call which honors a fallen service member.

"During each of our continual rolling Hospital Corpsman classes, our instructors impress upon each and every student that comes through here that at some point in their career they may also hear the words ‘corpsman up’ (a call for when a corpsman is needed) and be in position to treat casualties under less-than-ideal circumstances," said Capt. Ann Case, commander of NMTSC. "And like HN Kilmer, their fellow shipmate, they must rise to the occasion, especially when they may least expect it. He did what he knew he needed to do."

"Welcome to Hell" were the words that greeted a young Marine, Joseph Barna, on top of a mountain in Korea as Kilmer walked up and introduced himself, four short months before he was killed.

Barna went on to tell stories about how he bonded with Kilmer in those months before he was killed in Korea. Over cold beans and corned-beef hash, cooked over a candle flame sent to Barna by his pastor, Barna and Kilmer, would sit around and talk about their families, their past, and what they were looking forward to when they returned home.
220812-N-IT566-0039 FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 12, 2022) Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Gorman, assigned to Navy Medicine Training Support Center, salutes during the playing of taps after conducting the Final Roll Call, which honors fallen Sailors, during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the death of Hospitalman John E. Kilmer. Kilmer was killed, during the atta
220812-N-IT566-0039 FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 12, 2022) Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Gorman, assigned to Navy Medicine Training Support Center, salutes during the playing of taps after conducting the Final Roll Call, which honors fallen Sailors, during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the death of Hospitalman John E. Kilmer. Kilmer was killed, during the attack on “Bunker Hill” in Korea, while using his body to shield another man from enemy fire. On June 18, 1953, Kilmer’s mother and brother were presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 12, 1952. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel/Released)
220812-N-IT566-0039 FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 12, 2022) Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Gorman, assigned to Navy Medicine Training Support Center, salutes during the playing of taps after conducting the Final Roll Call, which honors fallen Sailors, during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the death of Hospitalman John E. Kilmer. Kilmer was killed, during the atta
220812-N-IT566-0111
220812-N-IT566-0039 FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 12, 2022) Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class John Gorman, assigned to Navy Medicine Training Support Center, salutes during the playing of taps after conducting the Final Roll Call, which honors fallen Sailors, during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the death of Hospitalman John E. Kilmer. Kilmer was killed, during the attack on “Bunker Hill” in Korea, while using his body to shield another man from enemy fire. On June 18, 1953, Kilmer’s mother and brother were presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 12, 1952. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel/Released)
Photo By: Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel
VIRIN: 220812-N-IT566-0111

"I served with John for four months in Korea, and in those four months I found a friendship that no one could describe, believe me," said Barna.

Barna would help Kilmer on his patrols looking for wounded and killed Marines in between firefights.

"A Navy corpsman's job was to try to save as many young men as he could," said Barna. "They worked 24 hours a day and their pay was to see a wounded Marine live. I can never imagine how many young heroes came home to their families because of a corpsman. How many Marines said, "Because of a doc, I was given a second chance to live.”

One fateful day of fighting led to Barna's being on the receiving end of Kilmer's medical training.

"I owe Jackie Kilmer my life. I was wounded in battle one night while carrying a 68-pound flamethrower. I was thrown to the ground and landed on my back, the flamethrower pinning me to the ground,” said Barna. “A Korean came at me with his bayonet. I can still see his face and smell the garlic on his breath. As he lunged at me, I turned to the side, and he stuck his bayonet through my left arm.

“As I lay there bleeding, I began to feel tired from the loss of blood,” Barna continued. “I was ready to close my eyes when I heard a familiar voice say ‘Joe, if I don't close that wound, you'll die. God doesn't want to take you yet.’
220812-N-IT566-0046 FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 12, 2022) Joseph Barna, a Marine that served with Hospitalman John E. Kilmer in Korea, and Capt. Ann Case, commander of Navy Medicine Training Support Center, conduct a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Kilmer during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversa
220812-N-IT566-0046 FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 12, 2022) Joseph Barna, a Marine that served with Hospitalman John E. Kilmer in Korea, and Capt. Ann Case, commander of Navy Medicine Training Support Center, conduct a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Kilmer during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of his death. Kilmer was killed, during the attack on “Bunker Hill” in Korea, while using his body to shield another man from enemy fire. On June 18, 1953, Kilmer’s mother and brother were presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 12, 1952. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel/Released)
220812-N-IT566-0046 FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 12, 2022) Joseph Barna, a Marine that served with Hospitalman John E. Kilmer in Korea, and Capt. Ann Case, commander of Navy Medicine Training Support Center, conduct a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Kilmer during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversa
220812-N-IT566-0100
220812-N-IT566-0046 FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas (Aug. 12, 2022) Joseph Barna, a Marine that served with Hospitalman John E. Kilmer in Korea, and Capt. Ann Case, commander of Navy Medicine Training Support Center, conduct a wreath-laying ceremony to honor Kilmer during a ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of his death. Kilmer was killed, during the attack on “Bunker Hill” in Korea, while using his body to shield another man from enemy fire. On June 18, 1953, Kilmer’s mother and brother were presented the Medal of Honor for his actions on Aug. 12, 1952. (US Navy Photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel/Released)
Photo By: Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class David Kolmel
VIRIN: 220812-N-IT566-0100

“Jackie found me in the chaos. He took off my flamethrower and carried me into a bunker. He sowed my wound shut after treating it,” Barna said. “I owe 70 years of my life to a 21-year-old Navy corpsman who died days short of his 22nd birthday. I could have died when I was 22 years old."

Kilmer was volunteering to help another unit, that had lost two other corpsmen, the night he was killed.

In attendance, during the ceremony was the niece of Kilmer, Ms. Laurie Zotzky.

"I would like to thank you for all that you to do to keep my uncle’s memory alive, and all that you do for the country," said Zotzky.

In conjunction with NMTSC, the Veteran of Foreign Wars Post # 9186 hosted a graveside ceremony at San Jose Burial Park. VFW #9186 has been hosting graveside ceremonies the past 17 years.

"We began this event 17 years ago today, and we are going to continue to honor individuals like John Kilmer," said John Rodriguez, commander of VFW #9186.

Kilmer's grave was presented with the Medal of Honor headstone in 1988. A ceremony in which his brother was in attendance, and they displayed the medal.

On Oct 16, 2019, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced that the 84th Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer will be named after Kilmer.

Most recently, with the help of Master Chief Hospital Corpsman (Ret.) Donald Mason, a Navy Cross recipient, Joint Base San Antonio, and Medical Education and Training Campus dedicated the student activity center after HN John Kilmer.

JBSA Fort Sam Houston houses all services students going through medical training.

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