Vietnam veterans share experiences with students

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Photo by: Sarah Wortman

Richard Camacho (left) and Joe Richardson (right) tell stories about the past to Mr. Ropes’s and Mr. Doyle’s sixth period classes.

“For me, I feel like I’m living on borrowed time. I should’ve been dead already. I should’ve been dead six times during Vietnam,” said Richard F. Camacho.

Camacho and fellow veteran Joe Richardson visited Cam High last Tuesday to discuss their lives and how they had been affected by the Vietnam War.

The hour long seminar provided firsthand perspectives to history students learning about the Vietnam War and also detailed Camacho and Richardson’s lives after the war. “When I first started speaking at schools, it was hard,” said Camacho. “When I spoke out, I broke down and cried for about an hour. The questions the students and teachers ask — it brings up more memories.”

“Each time you go through a story, it gets a little easier,” said Richardson. “There are places that always sort of leave you a cracked voice and emotion welling up. But the more you talk about it, the easier it is to talk about.”

Camacho has been speaking to students for twenty-nine years, while Richardson has joined him for the past year.

“Life is more precious to me than it would be to somebody else. I’m a little more careful when I do things now, because I know how precious and how short life can be,” said Camacho.

Junior Bryce Dearden recorded the event. “One interesting thing that they talked about was how much more conflict they saw in that war than in wars’ previous with the invention of the helicopter,” he said. “A lot of times the Vietnam War has a very negative reception in the public eye, but for them […] it was really the policies that did so much.”

Both Richardson and Camacho agreed that war is not as righteous and glorified as some claim it to be. “You didn’t think about about how you were fighting communism and you didn’t think about fighting for the flag or for our homeland. By the time you got there and got through those first couple of days, it was instinct of getting a job done that had been assigned to you daily and somehow surviving,” said Richardson.”These thought processes about glory and whatever, they really didn’t exist. If you somehow let your mind go to that point, you didn’t survive long.”

Camacho recalled the mentality of warfare in Vietnam. “While you’re in combat, and the person next to you gets shot, your first instinct is ‘I’m glad it’s you and not me.'”

Camacho currently serves as the president of Vietnam Veterans of Ventura Country, while Richardson serves as the secretary. Both men served in the marines.