RIVERSIDE, Ohio (WDTN) — “Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil.”
Gene Camp memorized that verse from Psalms and says he has seen plenty of evil. From nine foster homes, some abusive, to ambushed firefights in Vietnam, Camp says he has feared evil. A self-described little, punk kid from Springfield who knew it all, he was constantly in trouble growing up and found himself in front of a judge at 17 years old with a choice to make. His decision? Join the Marine Corps.
“It was the height of the Vietnam War,” Camp says. “I wanted to go. I wanted the best. I wanted the Marines. I volunteered to go to Vietnam.”
Shortly after joining the Marine Corps, he was on the frontlines and facing the realities of war in his first firefight.
“I was scared,” Camp admits. “Bullets whizzing by your ears, and I don’t mean just 1-round. I’m talking about the first time you hear that the AK-47 going kak… kak… kak… kak.”
It was at that moment Camp simplified the situation. You are either going to live or die. Over the course of 18 months on the ground in Vietnam, Camp was injured three times and received two purple hearts, the last coming on what was already set to be his last patrol before coming back to the states.
Camp recalls, “It was our last spot before we were to reach our final destination. They opened up RPG’s, Daisy Chains, Command-detonated mines, AK-47s.”
Camp and his patrol were overwhelmed suffering many casualties. Camp, himself, was badly burned from an explosion, shrapnel was buried in his legs. Badly bleeding, Camp thought he might die on the battlefield.
“To tell you the truth, John, it was like I had seen the face of God.” Camp wondered, “Is this going to be the day that I’m not going to make it?”
He did make it thanks to four fellow Marines who patched him up, saving his life. Camp went on to serve a total of 17 years in the Marines and Navy, honorably discharged from both.