FINAL TRIBUTE TO SGT CHARLES “BUDDY” RICHMOND – by Steve Yevich and Len Blessing
A friend is measured by the quality of time, not the quantity. A friend provides memories for a lifetime – especially when those memories are intense and focused like they can get when in Special Forces. While friends maintain the memory, and smile within about those times in their lives, and maybe yearn for the ‘good old days’– they know those days are forever gone.
I had a friend -- Buddy Richmond. You may not know my Buddy Richmond, but you probably had a “Buddy Richmond” when you were in SF who came along during the single most influential and formative period of your life. We were young, idealistic, lived high on emotion, played hard, fought hard, believed like children in our Country, and wondered about God. We all were torn between being like the chivalrous knights from fairy tales and Hollywood, versus being the unscrupulous fighters who our Camp MacKall mentors trained us to be -- doing ANYTHING necessary to survive and win – the rogue-warriors who were Special Forces back then, and on which the Green Beret legend was built. There is an endless stream of memories, but foremost in my mind are the extreme ones that tied us together in an unspoken allegiance and dedication to each other. We were The X-Treme Games, decades before the notion was ever discovered by TV-land – and MY Buddy always was working on the edge, daring us to follow.
It all began during our Special Forces training at Ft Bragg in 1969. In SFTG, we sweated and worked harder than we ever had before, taught by those grizzled “old” multi-tour Viet Nam vets (Tom Jones, Duke Snyder, and many other now-nameless characters), ever-attentive because we knew we were bound for combat in Viet Nam. On after-duty time, Buddy was always an instigator, jolting us out of our dulled senses to face “situations” which he would just create in the usual settings in Fayette-Nam -- places like Caruso’s Lounge, the Circus, the Pink Panther, and a few dozen other bars which I only knew by the shapes of their neon signs -- never knew they had actual names. With Viet Nam looming on everyone’s horizon and making us desperate to capture Life, this was where we left our first marks, blood, cash, youthful idiocy and testosterone. When SF training was over, we “ghosted” at Holding Company for several longest months, going crazy on rumors and the never-ending waiting, until we received orders diverting us to 10th Special Forces Group at Ft. Devens, MA. Within a few months, Buddy and I were the only two lucky ones of our class whose persistent calls and begging to “Mrs. A” resulted in orders to Viet Nam. Making the trip across the continent on our way to the Ft. Lewis overseas processing point, we took control of a scene in a college bar in Rhode Island, defending my Uncle Paul against a couple of equally drunk “kollige kids”. We were invincible – we had nothing to lose – we were Green Berets – and we were going to die in Viet Nam. As we drove across the US, we dropped down into Tijuana and ended up running for our lives one morning around 0200h, realizing that some people were more invincible than us.
Those high charged times rapidly became very sobering when we hit Nha Trang, where we both unhesitatingly volunteered for CCN, going to CCN Launch sites as new Chase Medics. Our mentors were the Woodhams and John Gross – and we rapidly became members of that small group which flew every insertion and every extraction, peering tensely over the belly edge, watching green and red tracers, and colored smoke, and Willie Pete fireworks from exploding rockets, waiting for the call to jump off and enter, disoriented, into the chaotic dimension on the ground. How did we run so fast, but stay so low to the ground that our shirt buttons dragged? …firing back into bush, rarely seeing targets, only gunsmoke. Remember those sexy, but useless Uzi’s we carried for a while, until we relegated them to PX visits only? Remember the time Pappy Budrow let me leave Quang Tri to see you at the Phu Bai Launch site -- and a team called for a “routine” extraction, so we each chose a different chopper and flew out, and the VC hit the team while you were on the chopper pulling them out? We each flew in under fire to pull out hits – but mine was dead – we laughed about that, and argued whether he was dead before or after I took care of him. Oh, there was another time Woodham got hit while going in on a desperate RT, and I spent that night on the ground with a Bright Light team looking for Dehnke and Hollinshead’s (?name?) team, and we were ambushed that morning and took 3 hits. Boy, I don’t think I ever told you how good it was to see you on the chopper that flew in under fire to pick up my wounded. That was the best sight ever! Time almost stopped.
My Buddy Richmond, like yours, was much more than a medic; he was the true SF warrior. He was heroic, and unrewarded – but he let it go. There was the time Buddy was in the chopper that landed under fire to pick up four Montanyards from an RT, and the chopper crashed from 30 feet up -- the pilot shot through the face, and the co-pilot wounded badly. Although thrown, Buddy had so much experience on the ground doing team extractions that he immediately and naturally took over without a second thought. Downed in dense undergrowth in triple canopied jungle, Buddy organized the two door gunners and the Yards, pulled out the wounded co-pilot, and using that tiny survival radio contacted Covey and led off the chopper nose to a postage-stamp LZ for pick up. Truly an unrecorded feat in bravery and survival – but who ever knew except the three crew members, and the non-English speaking Yards, Covey, and he and I.
Our lives may have gone separate ways but we were glued together through the SF bond, and bolted and welded through the CCN Chase Club membership. Now, since 29 MAY 02, there’s one less guy in our tiny club who knows what it really meant to fly Chase – who knows what it took for a Woodham to climb down a 30 foot ladder to a wounded guy while flying at 100 knots at 8000 feet – what it’s like to spend hours on the details of packing both “pows” and meds so both have top priority – what the adrenaline rush feels like when you hear “…RT in trouble, launch!” -- what extremes of emotions those Hughey turbines bring when they start winding up on a hurried start – and what it feels like to transit from freezing in the open chopper listening on the headset to a frantic RT on the ground, to jumping out with a 90 pound rucksack from a ten foot hover to face flying brass and tight faces, and the smell of cordite, smoke, jungle-stench, and sudden quiet. Damn, Buddy, you just took a chunk of my heart when you died.
Buddy, your picture hangs with us, your Special Ops medic buddies, in the Joint Special Operations Medical Training Facility at Ft. Bragg NC. This is where our journey began – and you’re now part of The Legend in the gallery. We’ll all get together here as a team, and we’ll stay here, together as a team, in final rest.