TAYLORS, S.C. (WSPA) – Marine veteran Phillip Richards said it all started with a sign in his neighbor’s front yard.
“So I went knocking on his door and I said, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ You know, told him who I was,” Richards explained. “I said, ‘I’m just curious about that sign?’ After he said, ‘Well, he said, that’s the Marine Corps. I was like, ‘Yes, sir.'”
It was a Marine recruiting sign.
Richards’ neighbor told him to go do his research through some books at the library
“Once you read a couple of those, then you can come see me,” said Richards’ neighbor.
And just like that when Richards turned 18 he enlisted into the Marines.
“Because those are best,” Richards said. “You think about the finest, the uniform, the blue uniform. So, you know, just wanted to be part of the best fighting force out there.”
Richards said he went into the infantry so he would get the opportunity to travel.
In 1990, he deployed for Operation Desert Shield Desert Storm.
“We deployed in the summer of 92 to Saudi Arabia and then in January ’91, or December of ’90, we went to Saudi Arabia, and in January of 91, we started moving forward towards Kuwait,” said Richards.
He said the experience was horrifying.
“You’re 19/20 years old, go to war, don’t know what to expect,” Richards explained. “And frightful, very scary. I mean, very scary as a young kid.”
He said the ground war lasted three days before a ceasefire was called.
“We went through minefields and an Amtrak loaded with ammo so if you accidentally hit a bomb or landmine then you’re on self made coffin,” he told 7NEWS.
But at the end of it, Richards said he was so happy to call his family to let them know he was okay.
“I called my brother, I called my Dad. I talked to them,” Richards said. “So yeah, it was it was good hearing their voices.”
Richards retired from the Marines in 1991.
Shortly after, he enlisted in the Army National Guard from 1996 to 2008.
During his career, Richards became a Non-Commissioned Officer and deployed to Afghanistan.
“I tried my best,” he explained. “I looked out for my soldiers, especially when I became a section leader. I looked out for my guys”
Richards said he was lucky to not get any physical injuries from his time in the military but he does struggle mentally with living in the past.
“I’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. So I have that,” he shared. “It’s hard dealing with more than 10 people, I don’t love being around larger crowds, or fireworks.”
Richards said it’s been therapeutic for him to give back.
“I work with Upstate Carolina Adaptive Golf where we help kids with disabilities, autism, down syndrome, and adults with the same physical disabilities,” said Richards.
He said seeing the smiles on the kid’s faces is rewarding.
Phillip Richards, Thank You for Your Service.
To nominate a veteran to be featured in our Thank You for Your Service series, click here.