Living Life to the Fullest: Spec. 4 Keith Campbell

 

Living Life to the Fullest

by Judy C. Campbell

KEITH ALLEN CAMPBELL is honored on Panel 15E, Row 8 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

 

Live, laugh, love. When I think of my brother Keith Allen Campbell, I think of those three words.  Keith was the epitome of someone who lived life to its fullest.

Sadly, he left this earth on Feb. 8, 1967, while serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam with the 173d Airborne Brigade (Sep.). An Army medic, he used his body as a shield to protect a fellow soldier after he had provided life-saving medical treatment. Keith had already served in the Dominican Republic with the 82nd Airborne Division and had received his Honorable Discharge. But he re-enlisted as the Vietnam conflict heated up, because, he said, “My medic skills are needed.”

Long before he was an Army medic, he was my big brother. I vividly remember playing with my Barbie and Ginny dolls, taking a blanket and cardboard to partition off rooms as if I were making my own little dollhouse. Often, I was teased for this—playing with dolls long after many of my girlfriends became interested in boys—but Keith never teased me. Instead, he often made splints for my dolls, as I pretended they fell and broke a leg or arm.

Keith always wanted to become an Army doctor, and I wanted to become a nurse; we shared a common bond in this field. His Boy Scout troop #165 at Mt. Olivet Church in Arlington, Va., always won the first aid competitions because of Keith’s efforts. In addition to giving medical treatment to my dolls, he also helped patch up the local kids as he got older. I was always his ready and willing nurse, no matter who the patients were!

Our mother, Esther B. Campbell Gates, saw Keith’s interest in medicine early on and invested in a set of medical encyclopedias, which Keith read cover to cover several times. Later, when my children were growing up, I would often reference these books.

Over the years, Keith caught me opening my Christmas presents early, then rewrapping them so no one would know I had been peeking. I just could not wait for Christmas morning! Over the years, he liked trying to frustrate my attempts at getting a preview of my gifts—for instance, taking an entire roll of Scotch tape to wrap my gift.

But, I will never forget Christmas 1961; I think Keith was more excited than I was! Our front hallway door was always open, so it was not unusual for it to be open that Christmas morning. But for some reason, Keith kept an eye on it, making sure nobody closed it. We began taking turns opening our gifts, and when it was my turn, Keith said, “Judy, go close the hallway door.”

When I did, there behind the door was a life-sized doll for me! She was the size of a three-year-old child. I still have “Peggy,” as we named her, and now my granddaughters play with her.

Keith was not only my big brother, but he was also a father figure, someone I truly looked up to for advice. I was amazed at how many people loved and respected him. He was adventuresome, but not reckless or careless. School bored Keith, as he was a hands-on type of guy and in many ways was self-educated.

Being a medic in the Army was just the first step in my brother’s life plan, in which he eventually saw himself becoming a doctor. While he never was able to complete all he wanted to do, he did use his medical skills to help many people before he died. While on maneuvers with the 11th Special Forces, his first sergeant walked into a tree limb. Keith immediately knew that time was of the utmost importance and surgically removed the limb, saving his vision. Sgt. Wood remains in contact with our family to this day.

SP4 Keith Allen Campbell gave his all during his life, and his memory will live on for generations to come. In my heart, I will always be honored to say that not only did I know Keith Allen Campbell, but I was blessed to be his baby sister.

 

JUDY C. CAMPBELL lives in Wilmington, Del., and is an active participant in VVMF ceremonies and programs, as well as a strong supporter of the Education Center at The Wall. She works tirelessly on behalf of Gold Star Families everywhere. Keith A. Campbell’s memory lives on in many ways. In 2006, the Fort Sam Houston Library was renamed the Keith A. Campbell Memorial Library. Also, the George Washington Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army issues the Keith A. Campbell Memorial Plaque annually to the outstanding enlisted reservist in the Washington, D.C. area.