Veteran 'finds purpose' again at UACCB
11/10/2017 - 5:13pm
The Army gave Craig Richardson the opportunity to walk in his father’s footsteps as a law enforcement officer. Richardson’s father, Jeff Richardson, served with the Cave City Police Department and was killed in the line of duty in 1993.
“I always wanted to be like him,” Richardson said. “I had a huge passion for wildlife so my ultimate goal was to work for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission as a game warden.”
He enlisted in the Army in 2007 and after completing basic training and advanced individual training, Richardson served as a patrolman at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. His company deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2009.
“Our primary job was to go out and train the local Iraqi police how to properly be a police officer so they could help support their villages. My platoon was detached from the rest of the company, and we were sent to a smaller area to live. It was never boring there. Almost every other day we received incoming mortar fire and IEDs [improvised explosive device] were common. By the time we were done, our whole platoon was hit at least once by an IED and several of us were hit multiple times,” Richardson said.
Fortunately, Richardson was not wounded. He returned to Fort Campbell in 2010 and was promoted to an area supervisor position where he oversaw several patrolmen. Richardson said he had the opportunity to work at several events including working security at the Country Music Festival in Nashville, the Country Music Awards and Camp-We-Can, a weeklong event for children at Fort Campbell with disabilities.
“One boy around 8 years old had one arm that was not fully developed. He loved the idea of fishing but could not hold a rod right. So, one day we took the kids fishing, and I helped create a crude sling that allowed the kid to hold the rod better. He caught his first fish that day and was ecstatic,” Richardson said.
In February 2011, Richardson responded to a four-way intersection with a light out to direct traffic. Shortly after he had taken command at the intersection, a motorist drove through the intersection and struck Richardson. He was rushed to the hospital which luckily was only a block away. Richardson suffered a broken hand, several herniated discs in his lower back and injured both knees which took the brunt of the impact. Richardson said he never fully recovered physically from the accident and left active duty in 2012 with an honorable discharge. He also realized his dream of becoming a wildlife officer was no longer in reach.
“Physically, I could not perform that job anymore, and this left me lost. That’s why I’m here at UACCB – to find my purpose again,” Richardson said.
Richardson enrolled at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville for the first time in 2005 as a full-time student while also working full-time as a land surveyor.
“I was working in Newport from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and trying to make it to class from 5:30 to 8:30. It didn’t balance out well, and I had to withdraw,” he said.
After he left the Army, Richardson worked at a ship yard in Alabama that was contracted with the Navy to build battleships. “That’s where I learned how to weld and fabricate aluminum and gained my aluminum welding certification,” he said.
Richardson earned his American Welding Society license in May 2017. He’s on track to graduate next May with his associate of applied science degree in industrial technology.
“UACCB has been phenomenal to me. Two people in particular, Zach Harber and Danny Ramsey, have made a big impact on me,” Richardson said. “These two individuals have gone above and beyond what they had to do to teach this old stubborn guy. Any time I had a question or concern, they did not hesitate to help me understand the problem and articulate it in such a way that it was easy to understand. I owe a lot to these individuals, and I hope that my actions once I graduate from UACCB, whether it be straight to the workforce or working towards my bachelor’s, can reflect the knowledge that they have shown me.”