By Marilyn Miller
Minden dentist, Dr. Richard Campbell, was among 11 military veterans who were recognized Saturday, Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. during the 2023 Veterans Honor Ceremony at Shreveport Municipal Auditorium.
Joey Strickland, secretary of the Louisiana Dept. of Veterans Affairs, was the guest speaker for the honor ceremony. Strickland was also the grand marshall of the Veterans Parade which took place at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds. Campbell and the 10 other “Veterans of the Year” representing the Northwest Louisiana area also rode in the parade, along with their families.
The Veterans Celebration Committee sponsored the events. Nomination forms, which circulated in early Fall, sought information like “Branch of service,” “Highest rank held,” “Dates of service,” and “Decorations earned. The committee also sought information on the nominees’ service to the Veteran community and “any other information to justify the award;” along with membership in any Veterans service organizations and offices held. Nominators were asked to submit a brief biography as well.
“I was certainly honored…to say the least,” Campbell said of his selection. “It has something to do with my military experience and achievements, as well as my civic involvement…a combo of the two.”
Campbell added that he was especially pleased because his son, Hooker Campbell, was currently visiting from New York and would be able to enjoy the program and parade with him.
A longtime dentist in Minden, Campbell has been affiliated with the Wiley-Pevy Post of the American Legion for many years, holding just about every office. He is seen leading all parades in the Minden area as a member of the Post’s Honor Guard. He is a very active member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which he serves as Senior Warden. He has lead at least 10 dental and medical mission trips. He is affiliated with many other organizations. Campbell is married to Lisa Jackson Campbell and they have one son, Hooker Campbell. His in-laws are Hal and Yvonne Jackson, also of Minden.
Campbell was born to Dr. Paul Murdock Campbell, an osteopath and a veteran and Lorraine Whiteman Thomas Campbell, a writer who held the title of Webster Parish Historian for many years. He was an only child who graduated from Minden High School in 1964 and earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Louisiana Tech.
Though he could have taken a deferment for having flat feet and for being an “only surviving son,” he volunteered for the U. S. Army after finishing Tech. He took basic and advanced individual training (AIT) in infantry at Fort Polk (Tiger Land) near Leesville, LA. He then entered Officer Candidate School (OCS) in infantry on July 20, 1960 at Ft. Benning, near Columbus, GA.
Campbell has been quoted as saying OCS was “very, very, very difficult physically and mentally.” He described sleep deprivation and high levels of harassment as very challenging to performance. The training was “outstanding,” however. Campbell completed airborne training at Ft. Benning and jungle school in Panama. He then had to serve as a tactical officer (TAC) for an OCS class. An audio biography of Campbell says that “It was a horrible job because you had to be a complete ass and make life just as miserable as you could for the fellows and then evaluate them under all the stress.”
1LT Campbell arrived in Vietnam in October of 1970. “I actually looked forward to it because that’s what I’d been trained to do and I was patriotic enough to think that I was doing what my country wanted and needed me to do. I certainly never wanted to die, but I was somewhat fatalistic about it. If it happens, it happens,” he is quoted as saying in the Oral History Project at R. W. Norton Art Gallery. The intro to his section in the art project says that “Richard…served a year in the Vietnam War as a first lieutenant and platoon leader in the famed 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. Unlike many sent to Vietnam, he was happy about the assignment.”
He was given a “Recon Platoon” (reconnaissance), although it meant staying out longer in dangerous situations with fewer people. “They were all volunteers and therefore some of the finest troops that I could have asked for,” Campbell said.
Campbell amassed many stories during his year in the war-torn, Agent Orange-covered Asian country of Vietnam. He has shared a lot of those memories during his many speaking engagements. Recollections range from “the beginning of a firefight was mass confusion” to “I assure you my voice went up an octave when all that started” to “my Dad sent me Louisiana Hot Sauce, which made the rations taste better,” to “my mother, a ‘prolific writer,’ sent me many letters and tapes with news about the family and community.”
Campbell came home in August of 1971, slightly short of a year because of the death of his grandmother and precarious health of his mother. He later asked to go back, but his military service was over. As was the war.
He enrolled in Dental School at LSU in New Orleans, graduated in 1976, and returned to Minden. His continues the practice of dentistry today.
Quoting the Oral History at R. W. Norton, Campbell said, of his surviving, “I knew that chances really weren’t that good because of what I was doing, but the Lord looked out for me.”