A veteran’s story: From Navy Corpsman to nurse to Medal of Honor recipient

Side-by-side photos of man when he was in the military and present day

Bob Ingram, a military veteran and registered nurse with Memorial Family Medicine in Jacksonville, said that if you study the word ‘courage,’ you’ll find it’s a conscious decision, made moment by moment, to do the right thing.

Ingram, a modest man, wasn’t talking about himself – though he fits the description to a T. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor – the U.S. military’s highest decoration – in 1998 because of a choice he made 51 years ago in Vietnam.

The 72-year old nurse is among the more than 16,000 service members (and counting) working at HCA Healthcare and its affiliates as part of the company’s commitment to hire and support our nation’s heroes since 2011. We really do have some of the best, and Ingram is one of them.

Vietnam to HCA Healthcare

On March 28, 1966, Ingram was a 21-year old U.S. Navy corpsman – a medic and one of the most combat decorated ratings in the Navy (most earned by serving with the marines) – assigned to support the Fleet Marine Force of the U.S. Marine Corps in combat when his company took heavy fire.

“It was a very bad day,” Ingram told HCA Healthcare Today, “and when my team went down, I went in after them and gave them my best. I moved from one to the other and had been shot in between several times, to the point where I probably was not going to survive.”

Ingram, who suffered four gunshot wounds, says that he just made a decision that he was going to go down kicking. Much to his surprise, and everyone else’s, he lived.

“All I really wanted at that point was to get out there and take care of my men because I was going to die anyway, which is probably what kept me alive,” Ingram recounted on the YouTube series, Medal of Honor Book.

After his four-year stint in the Navy, including nine months in Vietnam, Ingram, a Clearwater, Fla., native, went back home. It wasn’t long before he landed a job with Jacksonville Family Practice, now Memorial Family Medicine, an HCA Healthcare Physician Services Group practice affiliated with Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville.

The Medal of Honor

It wasn’t until 1995 when Ingram received a call from his former platoon commander who said that he had been recommended for the Medal of Honor.

“I didn’t feel like I deserved anything to begin with,” Ingram said. “The men who were alive at that point were the ones who decided they should go after it and make it happen.”

Ingram explained that the law stated Medal of Honor commendations had to be filed within three years of the time the action occurred. But his service comrades put the entire package back together, and it was finalized and accepted in 1998.

“The greatest part about it was the fact that I had 14 of the guys I served with out there in the audience,” Ingram said of receiving the Medal of Honor from then-President Bill Clinton. “As I’ve often said, it’s really not about me. It’s about the team. Everything in war is about the team.”

Life in healthcare

A chance hospitalization in boot camp led to a life in healthcare, and Ingram hasn’t looked back.

“I went into the Navy for the aviation program. But when I was hospitalized and quarantined because of a meningitis outbreak, I observed the way the corpsman worked. And whatever it was they had, I decided I wanted,” Ingram recalled.

Today, he works as a part-time nurse at Memorial Family Medicine, performing x-rays and flight physicals, and traveling the country for speaking engagements as a Medal of Honor recipient.

Guy T. Selander, MD, a 46-year physician at Memorial Family Medicine, has worked with Ingram since he returned from Vietnam, and says he has always been a “top-notch employee, professional in demeanor and very capable.”

“For 20 years, I knew little of his service in Vietnam until he was belatedly awarded the Medal of Honor,” Dr. Selander says of the man he now calls his friend. “I had the privilege to be at the award ceremony. It has changed his life but not his persona. It has been my pleasure and honor to work with him throughout the years.”

Career path for veterans

Ingram, who laughed when asked if there were veteran recruitment initiatives in ’71, thinks it’s an important part of the HCA Healthcare culture today.

“It goes without saying that if you hire a veteran, you already have someone who knows how to discipline themselves from day to day,” he said. “They show up for work on time, they do a good job…the maturity level is greatly different from those who have gone to school all of their life. It’s purely a self-disciplined and team-disciplined attitude that makes a difference.”

Ingram joked that he’s getting old enough to bow out of nursing. But we’re thankful that he’s made the decision to stay…at least, for now.

As he said: “Courage is making a decision at any point in your life – it doesn’t mean only the military. Anybody going through life has to make decisions all day, every day. It’s a matter of making the right decisions. And it takes courage to do that.”

Happy Veterans Day to HCA Healthcare’s military veterans, and all of the men and women who have ever served.

HCA Healthcare is a 2017 Military Friendly Employer®, a 2017 Military Spouse Friendly Employer® and a RecruitMilitary 2017 Most Valuable Employers (MVE) for Military award winner. Military veterans can visit here for more information about job opportunities at HCA Healthcare.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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