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Local Purple Heart recipient remembers those who didn't return

Sgt. Lazaro "Airborne" Camarillo III
Posted at 5:14 AM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 15:02:43-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Sgt. Lazaro “Airborne” Camarillo III has carried a weight from his service all these years.

Camarillo is a service hero. His actions in Vietnam earned him a Bronze Star with Valor and a Purple Heart.

He recalled some of his worst days at war and some of the friends he lost along the way.

In a way, he says he feels responsible for their deaths. It’s a weight he’s carried all these years.

"They told me that I went back six times and I brought back six guys and two of them were dead,” Camarillo said.

On April 5, 1969, Camarillo’s unit Company C was attacked during a reconnaissance mission in the A Shau Valley in the Republic of Vietnam.

That platoon was ambushed and his platoon sergeant was shot. After running out of bullets during return fire, Camarillo rushed forward through enemy fire to reach his sergeant and carry him to safety.

It's a day Camarillo wouldn't remember until 20 years later. But there's one day he says, he'll never forget.

"On April 10, 1969, I was walking point and the first bullet hit my rifle and knocked it down,” Camarillo said. “Tom got killed."

He says he carried him to a chopper to be medevaced out. Hours later his platoon was hit again.

"That same afternoon I walked point again and William got killed,” Camarillo said.

Fifty years later, Camarillo would learn four others were killed while he was walking point. It's a weight he says he's been carrying all these years.
"I walked two ambushes in five days and I was the only one,” Camarillo said. “I feel guilty. I blame myself all these years. All these years, me eché la culpa yo (I blamed myself), because I made it and they didn't make it. I was walking point and I got shot but they didn't make it.”

Camarillo continues to tell his story and those of his comrades. It’s led him to carrying his fight for veterans across the state.

Lazaro Camarillo: Veterans come first

He’s the Texas State Commander for the Military Order of the Purple Heart. And he hopes on this Veterans Day people will take a moment and think of those who have sacrificed for our freedoms.

"I'm an American,” Camarillo said. “I don't believe in white, black, brown. I'm an American, that's who I am."

The 82nd Airborne Division will have its Veterans Day ceremony at Ben Garza Gym at 1815 Howard Street starting at 10 a.m.

The veterans band will perform and Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo and Martin Longoria, the chairman of the mayor's committee on veteran affairs will speak during that event.

It'll be followed by a barbecue at the VFW Post 2397 on Ayers.