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NEWS | Jan. 26, 2024

U.S. Congressman recognizes Navy Chiefs for taking care of one of their own

By Burrell Parmer Naval Medical Forces Support Command Public Affairs

“By experience, by performance, and by testing, you have been advanced to chief petty officer. In the United States Navy – and only in the United States Navy – the rank of E7 carries with it unique responsibilities and privileges you are expected to fulfill and bound to observe” – an excerpt from the Chief Petty Officers Creed.

To publicly acknowledged the appreciation of several Sailors of the Chiefs Mess assigned to Navy Medicine Training Support Center, U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales (TX-23) presented Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition on Jan. 25 to Senior Chief Petty Officer Sean Harris, Chief Petty Officers Javier Sanchez, Luis Amaya, Phillip Tinker, and Wendel Stanford at the Defense Health Agency’s Medical Education and Training Campus at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. 

The Sailors were recognized for serving as the funeral detail for the late Senior Chief Petty Officer Joe Luna in Uvalde, Texas, on Nov. 20, 2023.

According to Luna’s niece, Jaclyn Gonzales, after his death due to long battle with multiple sclerosis, it seemed that Luna wouldn’t be given full military honors at his burial. 

“Upon his passing, we reached out to the funeral home, and they were not able to verify what services were going to be provided,” Gonzales said. “There seemed to be many obstacles and it appeared that we were not going to have the services that we had so wished for.”

Luna’s family contacted Gonzales’ office for assistance in which they reached out to retired Force Master Chief Petty Officer Paul St. Sauver of Veterans Resource Team for help. St. Sauver contacted the NMTSC’s Chief Mess, and seven members of the mess volunteered to answer the family’s request and to pay due honor to a fellow Navy chief and hospital corpsman.

Gonzales, a retired Navy master chief petty officer, was on the base to attend a change of command ceremony and took the opportunity to meet with the Sailors.

“I want to thank those Navy chiefs for covering down and taking care of that family,” Gonzales said. “For Navy chiefs, we don’t take our anchors off.”

Joining Gonzales at the ceremony was Force Master Chief Petty Officer PatrickPaul Mangaran, director, Hospital Corps, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.

“The fact that those chiefs volunteered to provide funeral honors for a retired senior chief show that heritage, pomp and circumstance are still in full effect,” said Mangaran, who was in San Antonio touring Navy Medicine Commands. “The Chiefs Mess is important to me because chiefs are supposed to be the link that brings all relationships together. Chiefs are usually called upon to work together to solve operational problems together, but also called upon to help a fellow chief petty officer and family members out in times of need.”

According to Harris,  assigned to NMTSC’s Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, when he received the phone call from St. Sauver, the Chiefs Mess jumped at the opportunity. 

“We wanted to support Senior Chief Luna’s family as he was a brother and fellow Navy chief,” Harris said. “We were glad to do it, and everything went well. It is meaningful to know that the Chiefs Mess, the world’s largest maritime fraternity, is everywhere and we will always be willing to support each other.”

Luna’s family is forever grateful for the support they received from Gonzales and NMTSC’s Chiefs Mess.

“First and foremost, we want to thank Congressman Tony Gonzales for assisting my family on the funeral services provided for my uncle,” said Luna’s niece. “As soon as my mother, Martha Lara, found out that the Navy Chiefs were going to be present it brought tears of joy to her eyes because she knew her brother was going to be honored.”

NMTSC is a subordinate command under Naval Medical Forces Support Command headquartered in San Antonio and is the Navy component command that provides initial training for thousands of Sailors, annually, through the Hospital Corpsman Basic “A” School and follow on training at Advanced Specialty “C” Schools.