Reporting Esme Murphy
MADELIA, Minn. (AP) – A 20-year-old medic from the southern Minnesota town of Madelia who joined the U.S. Army to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor has died while serving in Iraq, relatives said.
Sgt. Emilio Campo, Jr., was killed in combat Monday, family members said. The Department of Defense did not immediately release details of how he died. Campo’s parents traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the return of his body on Wednesday.
Campo’s cousin, Marcella Rivera, said Campo wanted a career in medicine and thought the Army was his best opportunity for that.
“He thought he wanted to be a doctor, but he told his mom, `I’ve got to be realistic because we can’t pay for college.”‘
Campo followed his older brother, Hector, into the military. His younger brother, Hugo, will be a senior at Madelia High School next fall, his friends said.
Campo graduated in 2009 from Madelia High School, where Principal Allan Beyer said Campo played basketball as his main sport but also participated in track, football and choir.
“He was a real credit to his family, his school and his community. Every time he was home on leave, he’d come to visit with schoolmates, teachers and staff. He was very proud of what he was doing,” the principal said.
Five of Campo’s classmates stopped by Tuesday to share their grief and their memories, Beyer said.
“It’s like losing a son, even though he’s not my son,” said Kathy Schumacher, a teacher at the school. Schumacher’s son, Tom, has been friends with Campo since they were in third grade.
Dustin VanHale, a classmate and good friend, said Campo “was always best friends with everybody.” He was a motivator, telling basketball teammates after a 25-point loss, “don’t worry, we’ll get `em next time.”
“He’s not the best-looking guy in the world but he was always getting all the girls,” VanHale said. “We’d be playing basketball and he’d leave with two, three girls’ phone numbers. He was always traveling to different places to hang with this girl or that girl.”
But when he died he also had a steady girlfriend, Samantha Crowley, who was prom queen when Campo was prom king in 2009.
Longtime friend Tom Schumacher said Campo was “a very social person,” “a smooth talker,” “a big partier,” and “a regular Casanova.”
“He was always the most calm. He was the funny one. We did a lot of stuff, he just loved doing stuff,” Schumacher said. “He just tried to live his life to the fullest. He was always helping other people. He felt (the Army) was one way he could help.”
Brendon Caraway said he joined the Marine Reserves about the same time Campo joined the Army.
“I haven’t been overseas,” Caraway said. “When he came home in February he was talking to me about what it’s like and everything: He’s a medic, just doing his job, just gotta do the best you can and be careful.”
Schumacher said Campo appeared to be unafraid.
“Everybody always worried about him, told him to come home,” Schumacher said. “He was always the one who told everybody not to worry, shrugged it off like it was no big deal. Made it seem like he was invincible. That’s what we always said.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)