News: Combat Medical Training Facility dedicated to Sgt. Johnny 'Joe' Peralez Jr.: first fallen medic of OIF 05-07
Story by Sgt. Kimberly Drier
by Sgt. Ann Drier
"Oh, Lord, I ask for the divine strength to meet the demands of my profession. Help me to be the finest medic, both technically and tactically. If I am called to the battlefield, give me the courage to conserve our fighting forces by providing medical care to all who are in need. If I am called to a mission of peace, give me the strength to lead by caring for those who need my assistance. Finally, Lord, help me to take care of my own spiritual, physical and emotional needs. Teach me to trust in your presence and never-failing love." Combat Medic Prayer.
BAGHDAD – With a sliver of early morning sun pointing at the cloth covered memorial pedestal and a soft breeze whispering through the leaves of a nearby palm tree, Master Sgt. Roberto Caesar, the operations sergeant for the Office of the Division Surgeon, 4th Infantry Division, invited visitors to join him in saluting the flag during the playing of the national anthem Sep. 10 at the ceremony dedicating the Combat Medical Training Facility on Camp Victory.
Sgt. Johnny Peralez Jr., who was a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div., died while providing medical coverage for his team during a convoy operation Jan. 5 near the city of Karbala when the vehicle he was riding in hit an improvised-explosive device. Four other Soldiers also lost their lives in the attack that day.
During the ceremony, Master Sgt. Gary Kent, Office of the Commandant, 4th Infantry Division, who served as the gospel service pastor, led the visitors through a prayer asking God to grant peaceful rest for the fallen Soldier.
Once seated, the guests listened as Caesar described Peralez's career in the Army and his accomplishments as a man, a Soldier and an Army medic.
A native Texan, Peralez was born in Kingsville February 1, 1980. He joined the Army September 8, 1999, and served as an ambulance driver and medical squad leader in Germany with the 1st Infantry Division. When reassigned to Fort Hood, Texas, he joined HHB, 3-16 FA Regt., and deployed in November 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07 as a senior medic.
In March 2006, Multi-National Corps – Iraq and Multi-National Division – Baghdad created the combat medical training facility in a joint venture to train and prepare combat lifesavers and Soldier-medics. Since its opening, more than 530 first responders and combat medics have trained in more than 50 classes – each certified, registered and held to the standards of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians.
"The plan to create a combat medical training classroom on Victory Base Complex was a vision spearheaded by Sgt. Maj. Anthony 'Tony' Kendrick and was shared by me," said Sgt. Maj. Aaron Arch, Office of the Division Surgeon, 4th Inf. Div.
"With the support and approval of his battle-boss, Col. William Besser, Multi-National Corps – Iraq Surgeon's Office, designated and yielded a portion of its allocated space to allow for a facility reserved for training first responders and Soldier-medics in the art and science of minimizing suffering and saving lives," said Arch.
In his remarks about Peralez, Command Sgt. Maj. Elijah King, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, recalled the philosophy of Peralez toward his mission as a medic –"there is no mission too difficult and no sacrifice too great," which is the 1st Infantry Division motto.
"Peralez was a consummate professional," said King. "He was always ready for the unexpected, and he expected the unexpected. He trained the medics under his watch with the same high standards."
Peralez would require all medics on his team to inventory their medical bags daily, King said, so that in an emergency, not only would they have the bandages and supplies they needed, but they would know exactly where in the bag they are located.
"Medics do not have time to think where their supplies are," he said. "They have to know instinctively where to reach for that syringe or bandage. Peralez trained his men to be the best medics in the field. He gave his life for what he believed in and loved.
"We dedicate this facility in remembrance of the spirit in which he lived – to train, mentor and coach the medics of tomorrow," concluded King.
Outside the facility, a marble column commemorating Peralez's sacrifices was unveiled by Capt. Mohamad A. Umar, his medical supervisor and close friend, assisted by Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Riling, 4th Inf. Div., and Sgt. Maj. Tony Kendrick, Office of the Division Surgeon, Multi-National Corps – Iraq.
Just inside the entrance to the building, a stunning memorial to Peralez greets visitors. It includes a painted portrait of Peralez surrounded by desert camouflage netting, a shadow box containing an American Flag with all the medals and ribbons he earned during his career arranged around it, and his helmet with his desert sand combat boots resting on a small table below the shadow box.
On the wall just past the doorway, the names of the eight combat medics who have given their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom 05-07 are hand painted beneath the unit crest of each Soldier.
"There is a special place in heaven for those who answer the call that leads them to become Soldiers," said Ceasar, "especially those whose calling brings them into the field of combat medicine."
"This is a fitting memorial to a man such as Peralez," said King. "He was a dedicated man, Soldier, leader and combat medic."
His parents, Virginia Garcia and Johnny Joe Sr., of Kingsville, Texas, survive Peralez. He was the first Soldier-medic to die during the division's OIF-05-07 combat rotation.
This work, Combat Medical Training Facility dedicated to Sgt. Johnny 'Joe' Peralez Jr.: first fallen medic of OIF 05-07, by SGT Kimberly Drier, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.