Army Sgt. Richard Campos an Orphan Killed by Vietnamese Sniper 78 Years Ago Today
It is said a man hasn’t died as long as he is remembered. Today let us remember him.
Song #1 “El Corrido de Richard Campos”
Song #2 “El Soldado Huerfanito”
Richard Frederick Campos had enlisted in 1958 when he was just 17. At the time, he was an orphan and a ward of the state of California.
The details of his tragic childhood are wrenching, as described in a short bio from Remembering our Own, by Robert L Nelson.
Richard Frederick Campos was born on September 15, 1940, in Carbondale, California, near Sacramento. His mother was an unwed teenager; he never knew his father. When he was barely two, as his mother lay dying of tuberculosis, he was sent to live with an aunt in San Francisco. Five years later, she also died.
The boy was then sent to a foster home, but four years later his foster mother had to give him up due to her failing health.
By the age of 12, he had lost three mothers and three homes.
He was then taken in by Salesian priests at St. Francis School in Watsonville, where he was remembered as a handsome, friendly boy who played on the championship basketball team and took a top trophy in a citywide marble competition.
The Nelson biography and other tributes can be found on a website honoring Vietnam veterans. But few knew the full story as his body lay at the terminal in a gray metal coffin, virtually an unknown soldier.
The Mexican-American veteran’s organization “The American G.I. Forum” asked the government if they could claim Richard’s body so he could be buried instead of being stored in a warehouse but they were denied.
Eventually, as a result of widespread publicity, the Army located a long-lost uncle, a 57-year-old farmworker named James Diego Campos, allowing the soldier to be laid to rest at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno.
Hundreds of people attended and paid their respects when the funeral was held on New Year’s Eve 1966, almost a month after his death. Sgt. Campos was buried near World War Two Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz.
The Philadelphia Inquirer Story
Last Tribute For Fallen GI
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ill., Dec. 22 (AP).-A farmer who “always wanted a son” offered Thursday to provide a burial plot for Army Sgt. Richard F. Campos, who has no known relatives.
Campos’ body lies in a wooden coffin at the Oakland, Calif., Army terminal. He was killed in Vietnam on December 6.
The farmer, Ralph B. Phillips, 53, of Chauncey, about 20 miles northwest of Lawrenceville, heard about Campos in a radio broadcast. He called the station and offered to provide a funeral and cemetery plot. The Defense Department made no comment on his offer.
The farmer explained his reasons: “I’m not doing this for publicity…This is not a publicity stunt. We have so much to be thankful for that I just wanted to share some of what we have with someone.”
Phillips, who has three daughters, said, “I always wanted a son.” He said he would buy a lot in one of the local cemeteries and “arrange for that boy to have a proper funeral. And I’ll visit his grave and remember him just like he was one of my own family.”
This prayer is a way for families, friends and fellow veterans to remember our fallen brothers and sisters. Do not stand at my grave and weep I am not there, I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow, I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain, I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning hush, I am the swift, uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight, I am the stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there, I did not die.
UNCLAIMED’ SOLDIER GETS MILITARY RITES
SAN FRANCISCO (UPI) – Army Sgt. Richard F. Campos, 26, a nearly forgotten orphan killed in Vietnam Dec. 6, will be laid to final rest Saturday with full military honors.
Lt. Gen. J.L. Richardson, commanding general of the 6th U.S. Army at the Presidio, said a requiem Mass would be offered for Campos at the Presidio’s Army chapel of Our Lady Saturday morning. Burial will follow at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno.
In lieu of flowers, farm laborer James Diego Campos, 57, of Sacramento, an uncle of the soldier, requested contributions be made to the Army Emergency Relief Fund.
Sgt. Campos was an orphan and ward of the state of California when he enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 in 1958. He was killed by an enemy bullet while on patrol.
His body was returned to the United States and stored at the Oakland Army Terminal for more than two weeks while the Army searched for a living relative. Widespread publicity regarding the case led to the finding of the uncle.
He was declared legal next of kin and was allowed to bury his nephew. James Campos selected the Golden Gate National Cemetery for the burial because more than a hundred orphans requested that the soldier is buried where they could visit him.
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