US Navy, November 05, 2015 - OAK HARBOR, Wash. by PO2 John Hetherington – The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) honored Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (HM1) Wayne Papalski, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island (NASWI) Search and Rescue (SAR), from Newark, New Jersey, as an Angel of the Battlefield at their annual Angels of the Battlefield Gala held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, Nov. 4.
This ASYMCA event honors the individual men and women on the front lines who are saving lives and have demonstrated extraordinary courage. The Angels Gala is the only event specifically recognizing military medical personnel.
“He has demonstrated time and time again his pledge to place the lives of fellow citizens and warfighters before his own, ‘So Others May Live,’ the mantra of the Search and Rescue Corpsman,” said Capt. Frederick J. McDonald, commanding officer, Naval Hospital Oak Harbor, in a letter endorsing Papalski’s nomination. “By his noteworthy actions, HM1 Papalski has proven to be selfless, compassionate, and willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in keeping with the long and proud heritage of our beloved Hospital Corps.”
Papalski was nominated for a combination of his efforts, highlighted by the rescue of a female hiker trapped at 9,000 feet elevation on Mt. Stuart, suffering from a skull fracture, intracranial bleeding, facial trauma, an open upper arm fracture, as well as hypothermia and several other complications, June 2014. Papalski began to treat and stabilize her injuries before transferring her care to a surgeon at a trauma center. The patient was expected to make a full recovery.
“I was nominated for a few rescues that I did and some of the prior stuff I did right before coming here when I was deployed,” said Papalski.
Papalski appreciates the rare recognition for medical professionals serving on active duty.
“It’s an honor,” said Papalski. “The frontline, pre-hospital people usually don’t get honored, but it’s not a job you do looking for recognition.”
He credits the Sailors he works with at NASWI for earning this award.
“It’s a good recognition for my crew and people who are on the missions knowing that people actually look out and care about what we do,” said Papalski. “I wish all of us could get recognized, but it’s a medical award.”
The ASYMCA has honored more than 450 medics, corpsmen, and para-rescuemen for their exemplary service to date.
SAR operates three MH-60S helicopters from NASWI as search and rescue platforms for the squadrons and personnel assigned to the installation. The base also has an agreement to assist Washington State with medical evacuations and search and rescue activities.