MEMORIAL
Lance Corporal Fernando“Apache” Camarillo, Life-long Neighborhood friend, & Edgewood District Vietnam Hero
(Written by Mario Longoria)


After all the years that passed since the Vietnam War, it is still emotional to recall good friends and buddies you hung around with, played ball with, or just sat on the curb under the street light to talk about baseball, girls, and general nonsense. Although Camarillo 1 we presented ourselves as experts on girls, we had not yet approached let alone talk to any of the neighborhood girls about our interests and feelings. At the time, we were young, hopeful and seldom looked beyond the following day at school. This was our reality in the early sixties that changed for many of us after high school graduation.

In early June 1968, the mail plane arrived on time and that meant mail from home for some but not for all on board the ship. My watch was over and I made my way back to the compartment for some rest and other duties before the next watch. On my bunk were a couple of letters. One in particular was from my mother. Anxiously, I opened it and read its contents. Mother acknowledged receiving my letter…she sent her best, her love, and blessings. Everyone in the family was doing well, however, the Camarillo family, who lived across the street were notified that their son Fernando had been killed in Vietnam and mentioned how sad the neighborhood was after hearing what had happened. I read the letter again and began to cry quietly to avoid any attention. A few months earlier, my mother had sent me a similar letter to inform that another neighborhood friend Chris Delgado had met a similar fate in Vietnam. He was killed in February 1968 while Fernando was killed in May.

Many years later, in a conversation with a close neighborhood friend Antonio Cisneros mentioned he possessed letters he and Fernando exchanged in 1967-1968. Mr. Cisneros stated Fernando was his best friend and a day does not pass without remembering him and the fun times they had. At the time of the letters, Cisneros served in the U.S. Navy, stationed in San Diego, California while Fernando served with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. I asked Mr. Cisneros if he would share the contents of the letters to write a memorial about his duty, service and sacrifice in Vietnam. He agreed and stated Fernando was an extraordinary friend who deserves to be remembered and honored for his service and sacrifice. The following are excerpts from the letters in his only tour in Vietnam, in which, he expresses his delight about receiving mail, his mention of the operations they were involved, the dangers, and his concern about the war. He writes:

Date: October 17, 1967.
“Yesterday, I signed my death warrant because November 5, 1967, I’m supposed to leave for the “Nam” to join up with the 1st Marine Division.”

Date: November 25, 1967.
“Boy, it sure is lonely down here. It’s only me and this other guy. Right now, I’m a gunner, maybe in February, I’ll make lance corporal? Did you have a nice Thanksgiving Day? I hope so, Me, I was out in the fields. I was lucky; I had turkey loaf in my C-rations.”

Date: December 23, 1967.
“Just writing you a few lines just to say hello and that I’m alright. Well 2 more killing days till Christmas. That’s all I can say because that’s all we have been doing for the past 4 days.”
 
Date: March 11, 1968.
“I’m sure glad I received your letter yesterday. It was sure a morale booster…We just got out of operation Hue City. It was a 42 day operation and believe me it was hard. It started January 31, we had just come off bridge security along Highway One when we went into Phu Bai and they told us Hue was overrun by the gooks…Just as the last truck crossed the bridge into the city, we got it from all 

Camarillo 2 “We called in mortars (81s) to try and knock them out but couldn’t. Battalion ordered us across the bridge…2nd platoon was getting their ass kicked…we started pulling back, not retreating and 3rd platoon took the lead. Sgt. Adams knocked out one of the guns and rockets the other…As soon as we tried to get into the Imperial Palace, a 50 cal. opened up on us.”sides. It was hard for us to fight because house to house fighting was different from jungle fighting…we were pinned down.”

“We started to place the dead and wounded on a truck when a B-40 rocket hit near the truck and killed 1, wounded 10. I think this was the same type of rocket that killed Chris Delgado. My sister wrote and told me about him. Chris was at Hue City too…I turned down a purple heart when my left hand got screwed up from the shrapnel of that B-40 rocket…I didn’t think I deserved it.”

Date: May 22, 1968.
“I’m the unwilling, led by the unqualified, to do the unnecessary, for the ungrateful…When I get back to the world, I’m going to tell everyone what hell is really like and no one is going to ____ with me!”

“Boy, you know something; all the Marine Corps likes to do is fight, fight, fight. They don’t know a guy can get killed doing this because you can only push Charles’ so much…”

Regrettably, Lance Corporal Fernando “Apache” Camarillo was killed on May 29, 1968, a year after he graduated from Edgewood High School (Class of ’67) and seven days after his birthday. He died fighting for his country and left a legacy of honor and pride his family, friends, and community will cherish forever.


  • Please share your thoughts and memories of Lance Corporal Fernando“Apache” Camarillo.

    Posted by Jason Gatell at 11/11/2014
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