Hilliard Northwest News

Davidson grad earns Bronze Star

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Hilliard Davidson High School graduate John "Jack" Crowley, Fleet Marine Force Corpsman in the U.S. Navy, received the Bronze Star Medal last month -- as well as the Purple Heart in November -- for his actions to save critically injured Marines while on a patrol last June in Afghanistan.
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In a split second, the night was shattered by an improvised explosive device that violently catapulted John "Jack" Crowley into a crater the blast had created.

The 2006 Hilliard Davidson High School graduate, a Fleet Marine Force Corpsman in the U.S. Navy, quickly assessed the critical injury sustained by one of the 10 members of Charlie Company on a night patrol June 13, 2012, in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

Moments later, a second IED explosion filled Crowley's face with shrapnel, punctured his eardrums and claimed the life of 21-year-old Cpl. Taylor Buane of Minnesota, whose life Crowley had attempted to save.

Two other Marines are double-amputees today, and two others, including Crowley, were seriously injured in the pair of blasts, but Crowley was credited with actions that saved the lives of two Marines who were airlifted to safety that night.

For his heroism, Crowley received the Purple Heart in November and a Bronze Star Medal with a "V" device in May.

The cast bronze "V" signifies the risk Crowley took to save the lives of others even while he was critically injured and at a time when it was unknown whether the company was at risk of further attacks.

Crowley, 25, said he humbly accepts the accolades, but he is quick to point out he was fulfilling his duty and had learned from example.

"It was an honor to serve with them all," said Crowley, who is completing a five-year enlistment with the U.S. Navy at a base in California.

Crowley said he does not plan to re-enlist and will conclude his service in March 2014, having served one overseas deployment in Afghanistan from March to October 2012.

"I would do it all over again," he said. "I never expected to receive any medals. I have met so many brave men and women and am proud to have served with them all."

Upon graduating from Davidson High School, Crowley trained at Hocking College to be a firefighter. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2009.

Crowley was first stationed at the U.S. Naval Hospital at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he treated not only military personnel, but also Haitian civilians injured in a massive earthquake in January 2010 that, by most accounts, killed more than 200,000 people.

Crowley also was responsible for clinical and clerical duties at the hospital, worked in the hospital's emergency room and triage and even assisted Cuban nationals in childbirth.

"I learned a lot at (Guantanamo) that helped me later (in Afghanistan)," said Crowley, who trained at the Naval Station Great Lakes in Chicago to advance to the rank of Fleet Marine Force Corpsman.

A corpsman is an enlisted medical specialist in the U.S. Navy.

While in Afghanistan, Crowley provided medical care for American military and Afghan civilians, preventive aid for civilian women and children and instructed the Afghan military medical personnel.

His duties included training Marines in acute-trauma treatments during combat conditions, just as he experienced June 13, 2012.

Crowley described Helmand province, the southernmost in Afghanistan, as the "Wild West."

Bloody feuding is not uncommon for access to the seeds of poppy flowers, used to make heroin, in the region of the Helmand River, he said.

"The Taliban is there (and) it is pretty rugged," Crowley said.

Crowley said last June, his 10-man company was on foot and had been observing a village from an elevated position. They were returning to camp when one man stepped on an IED.

"After the explosion, I was calling (for more help) and then there was a second explosion. ... I blacked out for a few seconds after that," Crowley said.

Though he was wounded, too, Crowley stabilized the two critically injured Marines and the company waited.

"We waited for about two hours," he said, until a Chinook helicopter piloted by the British military could safely airlift the critically injured to a hospital.

About 20 minutes later, Crowley and the remainder of his company rode back to their camp.

At Twentynine Palms Base in southeastern California, Crowley is instructing and certifying corpsmen to treat injuries during active combat, drawing from his own expertise and experience.

"You burst with pride. I could not be more proud," said Jim Crowley, Jack's father, an attorney who lives in Hilliard with Mariann, his wife and Jack's mother.

Jim Crowley said he is proud that his son made such accomplishments after suffering from spinal meningitis as a child.

"At the age of 2, Jack was undergoing speech and physical therapy ... but went on to be a four-sport athlete at Davidson," he said.

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