Vietnam

Jesse Herrera


By the Voces Staff

Jesse Herrera grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a working-class neighborhood where many of his peers went straight from high school to jobs in the steel mills.

That wasn't the future he wanted for himself. But he didn't know anyone who had gone to college. "It was alien to me," he said. The Vietnam War was underway, but Herrera didn't want to wait to be drafted, which meant he'd go right to the Army. "The Navy appealed to my sense of adventure" and offered a chance to see the world, he said.

Charles Paul Jones


By Catherine Murphy

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Charles Paul Jones was no stranger to diversity. Jones’ neighborhood on the west side of town included Belgians, Germans, Hispanics, Italians and Lebanese.

“It was a Brooklyn Southwest, for lack of a better term,” Jones said. “We all learned about each other’s culture. … Everybody on the block got along.” He valued the experience of growing up in such a dynamic culture.

John Edward Martinez


By Tarrah Miller

“It’s a neat experience because you get to meet people from all over the United States, and we are working for the common good and a common goal.”

That’s how John Martinez described his service aboard a submarine. But that experience was only one element of the larger personal significance he felt for his service in the U.S. Navy.

Felipe Ramirez III


By Voces Staff

A bullet in his chest and scars on his stomach were lifelong reminders of Felipe Ramirez's Vietnam War experience.

"The first round of bullets hit the machine gun. Before I knew it, I was hit. I felt something. I took a big dive and went behind a tree and said to another soldier, 'I'm OK, I'm OK,'" he said.

Ramon Rodriguez


By Zachary Romo, California State University, Fullerton

Standing in front of a judge, Ramon Rodriguez was given two options when he was 17: Go to jail or join the military. With his father’s approval, he chose to serve.

As a teenager in the late 1950s, Rodriguez had run wild on the streets of Wilmington, California. He was involved with gangs, including one case of grand theft auto. He claimed the reason for his behavior was a desire for adventure.

Elva Alicia Medrano Rodriguez


By Jazmin Sanchez, California State University, Fullerton

When loved ones go to war, it is not easy for those who are left behind. Religious faith helps some endure the experience.

Elva Alicia Medrano Rodriguez's brother, Camilo, served in the Vietnam War and rarely sent letters home. To cope with her brother’s absence, Rodriguez, a vocational nurse, turned to prayer and focused on her work with terminal patients.

Paz Peña


By Wes Hamilton

Paz Peña was a small-town kid in every way. Growing up in Mathis, Texas, he was the oldest of four siblings and always felt destined to leave his town to make an impact in the world.

Raymond "Ray" Saucedo


By Jackie Rapp

If growing up in a family with 11 brothers and one sister doesn’t sound hectic enough, Raymond
"Ray" Saucedo’s family also didn’t just stay in one location. Saucedo's childhood consisted of summers when the family would load up a truck and wooden camper and head to Michigan, Ohio, or anywhere else that cherry-, strawberry- and tomato-picking migrant work led them.

“Wherever work was, we would go,” said Saucedo, who went on to serve in the U.S. Army in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Joseph F. Velasquez


By Kristina Beverly, Cal State Fullerton

When Joseph Velasquez joined the U.S. Navy on April 23, 1968, he received a card that asked where he would want to go if he were deployed.

He could have picked anywhere, but he wanted to be where the action was. Velasquez wanted to go to Vietnam.

"People would ask, 'Why do you want to go there?' Velasquez said. "But it would be like going to a wedding and not seeing the groom. I didn’t want to miss the action."

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.