Washington, D.C- The commander of U.S. Central Command, Army General David Petraeus, praised the work of the Navy corpsmen and Army medics at the Third annual Angels of the Battlefield Gala held on March 11, 2009. HM2 Michael Ryals, kinesiology major at Campbell University, was nominated to accept the award on behalf of the United States Navy Reserve corpsmen.
"I am so honored," said Ryals. "This belongs to all navy corpsmen that protect the lives of our service members."
Petraeus told the 400-person audience that he was an appropriate keynote speaker, given that he's survived two near-fatal injuries.
"Some out there may wonder what my qualifications are to offer assessments of our medics," he said. "The fact is I'm quite well qualified on the subject, having twice awakened to the caring eyes of an angel on the battlefield following life-threatening injuries."
Ryals was nominated by his reserve unit in Raleigh, N.C. Previously, Ryals served three years in active duty. He was deployed to Rawah / Anah, Iraq for eight months. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Valor for an attack that occurred on Oct. 29, 2006.
"I am proud every time I put on my uniform," he said. "I think of everyone that has been before me and all the friends I have lost that wear the uniform. I am proud of my life-long friendships I have made and my accomplishments that I never thought I could have done. I love being a corpsman because I like the idea that I can put my hands on someone and save their life."
Petraeus said his simple, yet hugely important, task during the event was to thank combat medical personnel -- in particular, the troops accepting awards on behalf of their respective services.
"Wherever they serve, they always exhibit extraordinary qualities, skill, courage, cool under pressure and selflessness," Petraeus said. "Tonight, we recognize and thank them, the angels of the battlefield, for all that they've done, and all that they continue to do for their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and for our great country."
Photo copy: The commander of U.S. Central Command, Army General David Petraeus, stands with HM2 Michael Ryals, kinesiology major at Campbell University, who was nominated to accept the award on behalf of the United States Navy Reserve corpsmen.Photo by Shannon Ryals.