PHOENIX – Throughout the chapters of one’s life, there are not many moments that forever burn a memory.
For the Camacho family and their Marine, Master Gunnery Sgt. Anthony S. Camacho, one of those moments was April 5, 2013, during Camacho’s retirement ceremony in Hangar One at the Scottsdale Airport.
After 30 years, the man’s entire adult life, of commitment to country and Corps, Camacho called it a day – for good. Not an easy thought to swallow for a professionally driven man who has merely been accustomed to a dawn to dusk schedule for three decades.
“You have to throw yourself into anything you do,” said Camacho, who will now more often be throwing himself into paintball and movies with his children, or his personal favorite, just hanging out with the family in his backyard.
“There is a refrigerator, a pool, a grill, couches; I can go out there for days,” he said. “It is what I have most looked forward to, it is about my family more than anything.”
Camacho and his wife, Pamela, have 6 children, and Camacho said it has been through their support and commitment over the years that he’s been able to be a successful Marine.
They were who he thanked and gave is greatest gratitude to when saying a few words during the ceremony.
“It was hard on them, it was difficult being gone all the time,” said Camacho. “The kids truly bear the brunt of it,” he added, staring directly at his oldest child, his 21-year-old daughter, Alex.
Camacho then paused for a moment, walked toward his daughter and hugged her, as if to show her he is done – no more deployments, no more long nights and no more time apart.
Alex made the trip for the ceremony from where she is attending college in Santa Cruz, Calif.
“Growing up, we had a distant relationship, but it was a close-distant relationship,” she said. “I’m so proud of him, and I love him.”
Camacho’s travels throughout his career took him to places such as a Japan, the Mediterranean, South America and Greenland – all far off places for a kid from Nashville, Tenn.
When Camacho came into the ranks in 1982, he was a 17-year-old, freshly graduated from 12 years of a hard knocks catholic school and didn’t initially think the military was a route he was ready to jump into.
But the fit was there. He had a foundation of discipline groomed by uncompromising priests and nuns, and enough legs and lungs to earn him a college soccer scholarship offer he wasn’t much interested in.
“I just knew that I wanted to do my own thing,” he said. “The Marine Corps gave me a standard I sought, very black and white, and for the most part on my terms.”
It was Camacho’s first duty after becoming a Marine at Parris Island, S.C., that he said set him up for the rest of his career. As an infantry rifleman, he was assigned to assist at the officers’ infantry training school at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.
“There I had the privilege of being introduced and working with a lot of Vietnam era senior ranking officers,” he said. “Their reputations spoke for themselves and they were very honest communicators who held nothing back.
“You knew exactly where you stood and there was no fluff. That was what I gravitated toward.”
Camacho added that what he most importantly took from their mentorship was that even with their wealth of experience and knowledge, they were still willing to listen to the ideas of their most junior Marines.
“That first 18 months served me through my next 28 years,” he said.
Naturally, Camacho developed into a strong teacher himself and served in a variety of instructor roles over the years, from teaching cold weather scout sniping at the Mountain Warfare Training School in California to special operations training in Greenland.
“I had the pleasure to train and work with a lot of great Marines,” he said. “For me it was about being humble enough to know that if I don’t develop the Marines under my charge, even at the expense of my own personal success, I am failing future generations of Marines.”
One of Camacho’s old Marines, Master Sgt. Dominick T. Stinson, first met Camacho in 1996 as a lance corporal during training in Greenland.
“He rode everybody hard, but was a constant professional everybody looked to for advice in all aspects,” said Stinson, who is now a recruiter instructor at Marine Corps Recruiting Station New York.
Stinson and Camacho again crossed paths later in their careers during recruiting duty in Phoenix, where Camacho ironically recruited Stinson’s current commanding officer of R.S. New York, Maj. Robert M. Jones.
In recruiting Jones, Camacho spoke with him just the same way the Vietnam era officers had to him years earlier – honestly and up front.
“I was working at Champs’ Sports in the mall,” said Jones. “Then Gunnery Sgt. Camacho at the time walked in and conversationally asked me how I was doing.”
Jones said he immediately sensed genuineness from Camacho.
“I shrugged my shoulders and told him I was just struggling, working two jobs,” said Jones, who was interested in the stability the military could offer. “I had a child on the way and wanted to be able to provide the best I could.”
After speaking with Camacho, addressing his needs and how the Marine Corps could help, Jones found himself at boot camp five short days later.
“I could tell he cared and in that period of time he ensured I had all the guidance I needed to be successful,” said Jones. “Everything that man has told me is true.”
Camacho recruited Marines out of Arizona for 14 years, during arguably one of the most difficult recruiting periods the Marine Corps has faced.
“It was one of the more rewarding periods of my career,” he said. “I have gotten to see a lot of the time and effort I have put into individuals come into fruition in their careers.
“All of their success is solely on their shoulders. I just happened to have an opportunity to have a role in it.”
On this day of Camacho’s exit from the ranks of the Marine Corps, his branded influence and leadership will continue to serve Marines beyond his three dedicated decades of service.