Chelsea, Mass. native awarded medal

12 Dec 2001 | Lance Cpl. Zachary W. Lester

Marines face extreme hardships deployed to Iraq at a young age that most regular citizens don’t ever see in a lifetime.

Lance Cpl. Fernando Camacho, a scout with 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (LAR), 2nd Marine Division, received numerous awards for the work he did during Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

The Chelsea Mass. native was on patrol providing main supply route (MSR) security in western Iraq on what seemed like a typical day.  After the Marines established a cordon around a suspected improvised explosive device (IED), Camacho noticed a vehicle that looked suspicious.

“As the patrol was ending, I saw a car swerving in and out of traffic.  I knew something was wrong with it,” he stated.

Camacho and the other Marines on the vehicle then conducted escalation of force, a system of flares and warning shots, to try and warn the vehicle.  After realizing that the vehicle was not going to stop, Camacho engaged the speeding vehicle.

The Chelsea High School graduate was able to stop the driver before he reached the Marine patrol.

The driver of the suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device was carrying a pressure-sensitive trigger that detonated when the insurgent was eliminated, hurling shrapnel toward Camacho’s vehicle.

“I blacked out,” Camacho said  “When I woke up, the person next to me told me that I was bleeding from my eye.  I looked at my hand and I could see the bone.  A piece of shrapnel had ripped through it.”

Camacho had his wounds treated and returned to his duties with 2nd LAR.

He received one of two Purple Heart Awards and a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for the events of that day.

The second Purple Heart Medal was awarded from a similar situation.

“We were doing MSR security and we got hit with an IED that was hidden in a light post,” Camacho said.  “I had a concussion and a few other minor injures.”

“I thought that I had escaped death twice, and I was always worried that the next time might be my time,” he explained.

Camacho and his fellow Marines had to adapt to being deployed to Iraq and living in a combat zone.

“It seemed unreal. I didn’t picture it being like that,” Camacho stated.  “You have to see how war really is.  You have to deal with losing friends.”