Marines

Carlos Rudolph Quijano Sr.


By Stephanie De Luna

Carlos R. Quijano, a native of San Antonio’s west side, never imagined that his future would include world travel and achievements most people couldn’t accomplish in two lifetimes. Over 23 years, he served in both the Marines and Air Force and participated in military operations in Korea and Vietnam.

Benjamin "Ben" S. Rivera


By Blake Barber, California State University, Fullerton

Looking back on his experience while serving with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam, Ben Rivera evoked three years full of uncertainty about making it home, but also friendships that survived his lifetime.

Rivera was born Feb. 12, 1949, in Tucson, Arizona. His father, Benjamin Rivera, worked installing glass windows, and his mother, Connie Rivera, was a homemaker. Rivera recalled his parents as hard-working; they did the best they could to provide for their six children.

Blas Ortiz


By Jordan Haeger

 

Blas Ortiz had served as an adviser in Okinawa for a few months in 1963 when his unit, Co. E, 2nd Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, was rounded up, issued live ammo and told they would be on the next flight to Vietnam.

When his battalion landed on the shores of Vietnam, they were greeted with gunfire.

“It wasn’t a picnic,” Ortiz said. “No sightseeing.”

John Reyes


By Julie Rene Tran

The deep scar on his right arm, a slash made by a Viet Cong fighter’s knife, became barely visible. His eyebrows grew back and missing flesh on his calves, vestiges of a mortar attack, filled in. The upper lip, the one that “fluttered” after that same firefight, again formed a natural smile.

John Reyes Jr.’s physical marks from the Vietnam War healed; the profound impact of the war and life in the Marines weighed on him long afterward.

Richard G. Perez


By Alexandra Loucel

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Richard Perez, the son of a World War II veteran, was in Vietnam for three months, from December 1966 to February 1967. But those three months altered his life forever and led him to advocate for other veterans in his hometown of Houston.

Antonio Flores Alvarado


By Kassandra Balli

“I know I pulled him back to the safe area, but I don’t remember how I did it," said Vietnam veteran Tony Alvarado, recalling the day he rescued a fallen comrade during the battles for Hills 861 and 881.

When snipers attacked Alvarado’s Marine platoon, part of the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, only eight out of 30 men survived.

Gregory Rios


By Miguel Gutierrez, Jr.

The first time Gregory Rios cast a vote was in the 1960 presidential elections, when he supported John F. Kennedy. It made an impression on him -- especially because of the poll tax, which people in some states were required to pay in order to be allowed to vote.

Rios had to weigh all of his expenses against how much he had to earn to pay for it. For someone whose livelihood was earned by picking cotton, the poll tax put a burdensome dent in his meager budget.

Jose Aragon


By Laura Lopez, California State University, Fullerton

Few people can claim to have been a veteran of three military branches.

And few can recall images of war as vividly as Jose Aragon did when, at the age of 84, he recounted his harrowing journey through World War II in the Pacific.

Three years before he was drafted, Aragon recalled when the attack on Pearl Harbor and the impact it had on his family.

"It was a terrible memory, Pearl Harbor. We would ration food, coffee meat, gas, shows... just about everything," he said.

Bobby G. Biers


By Emily Macrander

Marine veteran Robert "Bobby" Biers recalls more distress as a drill instructor dodging comments from mothers than when he was on the frontlines in South Vietnam.

"I had these mothers calling me up, asking me, 'what did you do to my baby? He has manners, and he's polite. He lost 100 pounds. He's lean, mean and tough,' " Biers said.

"Tough but firm" is how Biers described the Marine Corps' approach to making new Marines.

Manuel Rubin Lugo


By Haley Dawson

Manuel Lugo boarded a plane in Okinawa, Japan, in November 1969 on the last leg of his journey to Vietnam. From the U.S. mainland to Hawaii and then to Okinawa, the flights had been lively—chattering, joking, laughing. But “from Okinawa to Vietnam, you could have heard a pin drop,” Lugo remembered. “The atmosphere just changed from day to night.”