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  • Kalidev Choudhury

HM1 Ivan Campbell

My name is Ivan A. Campbell and I was an E6 in the Navy for 9 years during the Vietnam War. I was raised in the inner city of New York City, and I wanted to start my own adventure to escape it. I was unfortunately not doing the best in high school and I dropped out during my senior year, though I still had a job. I did however finish my studies during active duty and received a GED. Before me, my dad served in the Navy and my uncle and cousin served in the army.

Surprisingly enough, I adapted quite easily to the change to military life. I was excited to embark on a new adventure yet also scared to witness combat. I went to boot camp in the Great Lakes Illinois then served onboard three different ships and two shore duty locations. My first assignment was onboard the USS Robison DDG-12 (Guided Missile Destroyer). I was assigned to the 1st Division as a non-classified seaman and duties consisted of the upkeep of the ship (i.e. swabbing the deck, painting the ship, polishing the brass work, driving the ship and standing forward or aft look-out watch at night. Subsequently, after a year onboard I was allowed to get initial "on the job training" in the medical field(like a medic in training), then close to a year later I received formal training at the Naval School of Health Sciences in San Diego.

I did not see combat during my years. I came onboard the USS Robison DDG12 after it completed its last combat mission in Vietnam in 1972, however, during our next WestPac cruise we found ourselves back near the combat zone plane guarding for an Aircraft Carrier making practice runs in the area in 1973. Nonetheless, serving during wartime especially in the combat zone has its effects on everyone although in varying degrees. I remember while I was assigned as a Navy Liaison officer at Tripler Army Medical Center in Oahu Hawaii a Marine Corps helicopter went down during a training mission killing everyone onboard. I will never forget how I had to take part in escorting their remains to the Medical Center

During my time in the navy, I formed close relationships with my crew members because we had to rely on each other to accomplish the mission. Everyone has a job to do. My job as one of the ship's hospital corpsmen (medic) was to keep the crew as healthy as possible which was challenging at times while out at sea. My closest friendship was with a Marine I served with while stationed at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. We are still friends today and keep in contact with each other often.

To conclude, war is horrific. It gives me an appreciation for the mundane stillness of peacetime, and I have a yearning for World Peace. I entered as a teenage boy and quickly became a man with responsibilities beyond my years. Life is fragile, you don't take it for granted. Respect other people who are different from you. We all must live together in this world, why not harmoniously? Our nation has been fighting wars for many years, some for very noble causes and others not so much. War may be necessary at times but should be the absolute last resort.

My military service shaped who I am today, absolutely no regrets. I look back with amazement, reverence, some sadness but overall more happiness. I've met some pretty amazing people along the way and often wonder how everyone turned out.


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