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    Navy’s Most Decorated Active Duty Hospital Corpsman Retires in Joint Ceremony with Wife

    Navy’s Most Decorated Active Duty Hospital Corpsman Retires in Joint Ceremony with Wife

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Cunningham | 210514-N-LW757-1208 SAN DIEGO (May 14, 2021) Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Luis...... read more read more



    Story by Seaman Luke Cunningham 

    Naval Medical Center San Diego

    SAN DIEGO – A joint retirement ceremony was held for the Navy's most decorated active duty hospital corpsman and his wife at Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) San Diego May 14.
    Hospital Corpsmen 1st Class Luis and Christina Fonseca retired from the Navy after a combined 46 years of Naval service.
    The ceremony, which was held on the Bay View lawn at MCRD San Diego, was attended by active duty and retired service members that have served with the Fonsecas, as well as family and friends of the couple.
    Luis Fonseca is most well-known for receiving the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism while serving with the First Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom Mar. 23, 2003, then as a hospitalman apprentice.
    Before joining the Navy, Luis Fonseca's father passed away at the age of 50. After dealing with the loss of his father, Fonseca started down a wrong path in life, and eventually dropped out of highschool.
    Growing up with adverse childhoods, Luis and Christina Fonseca joined the Navy at a young age to find guidance.
    Luis Foseca realized his life needed meaning, and joined the Navy as a hospital corpsman July 1999.
    "At the young age of 18, no other profession or college would have ever given a highschool dropout the opportunity to become a medical professional," said Luis Fonseca. "The number one thing that I've learned in my Navy career is to give others an opportunity. Every time I've failed in my Navy career, there was always a leader that gave me an opportunity to bounce back from it, which has made me the resilient and strong person I am today."
    Christina Fonseca grew up in a home with little support and also dropped out of highschool. She joined the Navy April 2000 as a hospital corpsman, working her way up and ultimately completing the rigorous course to obtain the Navy enlisted classification code as an independent duty corpsman.
    "In a way, the Navy [served as] my first parents," said Cristina Fonseca. "It provided me my first sense of structure and discipline. You don't realize you need those when you rebel like I did at a young age, but once I experienced it, I truly embraced it. The Navy made me feel like I was part of a family."
    Luis Fonseca stated that one of the most powerful things that he learned from his Navy career was to truly love another human being.
    "Genuine love for another human being that is so strong, that you are willing to give your own life and commit to that level of sacrifice, is something that I have never experienced outside of a blood-related family," said Luis Foseca. "Learning the true meaning of wholeheartedly loving another man or woman as a brother or sister, is a love of purity, and a love that is unconditional."
    As the Fonsecas reflect upon their retirement and give the watch to the next generation of Sailors, they wish that all new Sailors won’t be afraid to challenge themselves.
    Cristina Fonseca says that throughout her Navy career, she did not take her advancement test seriously.
    "I didn't make first class until my 13th year in the Navy, and I was running out of time," said Christina Fonseca. "It took until my very last opportunity to make first class to actually put an effort into studying my rating bibliographies. I read them front to back and word for word. I improved my test score by 20 points and finally got promoted."
    Working as a leader for the Enlisted Advancement Review Course at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD), Christina Fonseca used her story to motivate Sailors eligible for advancement to take studying seriously, and put in an effort towards advancing their career.
    "If you go throughout your career and find things that upset you, or if you come across leadership that you disagree with, make rank and become a better leader," said Cristina Fonseca. "If you experience things that you don't like or agree with, let that drive you to be the change."
    Luis Fonseca said when you work within your comfort zone and don't challenge yourself, you allow fear to hinder you from completing a mission. He said that working in the face of fear has allowed him to be as successful as he was in his career.
    After the traumatic events that led to him to receive the Navy Cross for his actions in Iraq, Luis Fonseca suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, alcoholism and ultimately attepmted suicide.
    "The only thing I regret from my time in the Navy was that I wish I would have spoken up sooner to my leadership and healthcare providers about what I was dealing with," said Luis Fonseca. "Throughout all of the trouble I've experienced in the Navy, I don't have many regrets except for worrying that if I speak up and get help, people would think less of me. As a Buddhist, I believe it's by the grace of god that I am still here."
    During the ceremony, Luis Fonseca talked about the numerous times he had been in trouble throughout career. He wore his dress blue uniform to display his red service stripes and chevrons in order to show others that the circumstances of his past do not define his future, a reference to an outdated Naval Administrative Message that stated only Sailors with 12 consecutive years of good conduct can wear gold service stripes and chevrons.
    Luis Fonseca said that after more than 20 years in the Navy, many of those have been spent away from his family. Luis and Christina Fonseca joyfully expressed that since their Navy careers are over, there is nothing to keep them away from their family, and are eager to take some time off working to be with their five kids.
    "Our older kids have been used to someone always being gone," said Cristina Fonseca. "It's strange to think about how our two-year-old is never going to know the life of having parents in the military and learn the resiliency, struggles and joys that come with that. As excited as we are, we are sitting in anticipation to see how our son develops through an entirely different lifestyle."
    When asked about their favorite memories in the Navy, the Fonsecas could not narrow it down to just one, but mentioned that most of their greatest memories stem from, or involve, the Navy itself. Their relationship that blossomed while both stationed at NMCSD, great duty stations around the world, incredible leadership and the friendships that have developed throughout the years were some highlights.
    "As a final word to the Navy, I want to say thank you for the opportunity and trust in me to take care of the lives of others," said Luis Fonseca. "Thank you [Navy] for training me to lead. It's been such an incredible honor. Thank you for the opportunity to find myself and do something with my life."
    After retirement, the Fonsecas look forward to the next chapter of their life together as husband and wife, and are excited to find their identity outside of the Navy.
    NMCSD’s mission is to prepare service members to deploy in support of operational forces, deliver high-quality healthcare services and shape the future of military medicine through education, training and research. NMCSD employs more than 6,000 active duty military personnel, civilians and contractors in Southern California to provide patients with world-class care anytime, anywhere.
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    Date Taken: 05.14.2021
    Date Posted: 05.18.2021 18:37
    Story ID: 396599
    Location: SAN DIEGO, CA, US 

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