Vietnam War veteran prepares for Freedom Honor Flight

The Freedom Honor Flight is just one week away.

Ninety one veterans from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War will fly to Washington D.C. on Saturday, May 12 to see the memorials built in their honor.

Michael Richardson keeps albums filled with pictures, news clippings, even medical logs as reminders of his three decades of military service.

"My draft number was 21 my senior year in high school," Richardson said. "So, I went in the Navy with a buddy of mine, and the second week of boot camp, I got my draft notice. So, it was inevitable."

Chosen to be a hospital corpsman, after a brief training period, Richardson found himself in Vietnam serving with the Marines.

"When I went to Vietnam, what I knew about Vietnam was what I seen in movies or TV," he said.

However, it quickly became his reality.

"They dropped me off with a platoon, and said, ‘We’ll see you when your tour’s up,’" Richardson said.

He was part of a small squad. Their mission was to defend small farm villages. The included harvesting crops, digging wells, and rebuilding schools.

"My training wasn’t that great, but I took care of the people medically," he said. "A lot of skin lesions. I delivered six babies over there."

While defending the villages, Richardson was injured in the line of duty.

"We were taking RPGs, rocket propelled grenades, and there was two or three of them come in," he said. "I just knew the next one was going to be in my foxhole. So, I got up and ran toward the building behind me. Well, a rocket hit the house. We got the ricochet."

Luckily, Richardson was able to treat himself and his fellow Marines, surviving the incident without being evacuated and earning a Purple Heart medal.

He finished out his tour in 1971, returning to Wisconsin briefly before deciding to re-enlist. It was a decision he says he believes saved his life.

"You see, the guys that come back have deep depression and drinking, hiding in a bottle," Richardson said. "I would have been there if I hadn’t gone back in. It took my mind off of it. Kept me busy, had a mission, had a purpose."

Richardson is now a retired, decorated veteran. His medals represent years of traveling around the world to serve our country. However, he stays humble.

"It’s two dozen years," he said.

He responds to people who thank him for his service with one simple phrase: "You were worth it."

Richardson is just one person in a family legacy of patriots. His uncle served in the Korean War, his dad served in World War II, his grandfather served in World War I, and his great-grandfather served in the Civil War.

News 19 will go with Richardson on the Freedom Honor Flight, following his experience not only traveling himself but with his father and his uncle.

MORE: 

Community rallies to welcome Freedom Honor Flight veterans home

Family of veterans experiences Freedom Honor Flight together

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