Joseph A. Machado of Baltimore is an 80-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War in 1966 and 1967 during his 24-year military career.

A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Machado grew up there and graduated from high school in 1956.

He joined ROTC before graduating from Harvard University and was commissioned an Army lieutenant in 1964.

After a time at Fort Lewis in Washington, he was preparing for a transfer to Germany when he received a change in orders sending him to Vietnam.

There he worked with some of the earliest satellite communications systems used by the United States. It was one of the first operational uses of satellite communications in a tactical environment in wartime.

Communications were made via the Syncom satellite and Interim Defense Communication Satellite Program. Syncom is an abbreviation for synchronous communication.

Machado's assignments included the 1st Signal Brigade, a Phu Lam communications facility, Buu Dien Ba Queo and Nha Trang satellite communications stations and a Long Binh receiver station.

His unit handled communications that included battle-damage assessments sent to the United States. Similar installations were in Thailand and the Philippines, which Machado sometimes visited on errands that included trading spare parts.

The main communications satellite was in orbit, providing four to six hours of contact at a time, he said.

The stations had permission to do what Machado called "voice testing," which allowed military personnel to make telephone calls of about 10 to 15 minutes to their families.

"We had the opportunity to get lots of people there" for such calls, he said. "I had a lot of people lined up to come in to do that, ... talking voice to voice with their family. Way before the internet, this was a huge, huge benefit."

For a time his unit was stationed near the perimeter of Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon.

There his unit was "literally at the wire" surrounding the base and was "constantly on alert at night," when communist sappers a few times crossed the wire, creating damage elsewhere on the base.

Members of his unit served 13-month tours and knew in advance when they would leave Vietnam.

Most of the time, he said, "we lived in relative comfort and weren't going out on missions. ... We still had to be careful moving around." In some areas, his unit was "less than secure, but we didn't think about that at the time. ... You never knew where a threat would be coming from."

The most difficult aspect of deployments, he said, is in being away from family. He had a new daughter and two other children when he was in Vietnam, he said.

Worrying about his family "and them worrying about me and trying to keep them informed and assured that I was as safe as I could be ... that worry was always there. You never get rid of that," he said.

Returning to the United States was an easy transition for him, he said, because he still was in the Army.

He retired from the Army in 1988 as a lieutenant colonel. He also was both a student and instructor at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

He was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 1988. The honor, he said, "is not about military service. It's about community service and what you did after you retired honorably from the military service."

He also has spent time looking for others worthy of the recognition. He has nominated four people to the Hall of Fame, and all were inducted, he said. About 200 individuals are recommended annually, he said, with 20 inducted.

He is active as a board member for Honor Flight Columbus and is active in the Military Officers Association of America, American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Korean War Veterans Association Inc.

He also is involved in a veterans ministry at Violet Baptist Church in Pickerington.

Machado's decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal.

He and his partner, Sarah, have three children and seven grandchildren.

Asked for his advice to veterans readjusting to civilian life, he said, "Be very grateful for living in a free country purchased and guaranteed by those who serve, continue to serve, have shed their blood or are willing to shed their blood to protect and provide for our freedom.

"I believe satisfaction and success is rooted in serving others. Jesus was the perfect and ultimate example of a servant leader, and I am committed to follow his example."


Marching Orders playlist