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.

José Luis "Louis" Villalobos Jr.


By the Voces Staff

Louis Villalobos Jr., a senior in high school, weighed his options. He didn't have the money to go to college. He could wait to be drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, or he could enlist and hope to be assigned somewhere else, where he could learn a trade.

Juan Espinosa De La Garza


By the Voces Staff

Gunshots peppered the ground around Cpl. Juan De La Garza. The mud of the rice paddies filled his boots. He did not know where the shots were coming from, just that he had to get his men back to Hill 327, a base camp near Da Nang, Vietnam.

U.S. machine guns would protect the squad once they were close enough to the communication towers on the hill. His radioman became hysterical, but De La Garza could not afford to lose his cool. He had to get his men back safely.

Robert Lee Polanco Sr.


By Kevin Bradley, St. Bonaventure University

Robert Lee Polanco Sr. sat on the plane, nervously biting his nails. The flight had left Texas nearly three hours earlier. They would be passing over the Pacific Ocean on their way to the other side of the world.

In 1971, Polanco was a soldier in the Army, returning to the war in Vietnam after “just a few days … not even a week” of absence.

Eduardo Fierro


By Gilbert Song

“All gave some, some gave all” is an old adage that captures the sense of duty and honor Eduardo M. Fierro felt about his service in Vietnam.

Around noon one Sunday in May 1968, while on a sweep-and-destroy mission, his Army platoon was ambushed by a company-sized element of the Viet Cong. Part of Fierro’s right arm was torn off in the firefight, and he was wounded in his right thigh.

José Antonio Dodier


By Adam Keyrouze

Both his father and his grandfather had served their country proudly during World War I and World War II, respectively. So José Antonio “Tony” Dodier didn't think twice about joining the Army.

Dodier’s first military training came when he was a student at Texas A&M University. A few years later, he was a young Army officer in the jungles of Vietnam, in a war he did not understand but which would leave him wounded, physically and emotionally.

Jorge B. Haynes Jr.


By Katherine Heighway

As a student at the community college in his hometown of Laredo on the Texas-Mexico border, Jorge Haynes Jr. was looking for direction in his life.

“I majored in flag football and in going to Nuevo Laredo to drink beer after 11 o’clock in the morning, so I didn’t do so well,” he said.

His father was pressuring him to go to college, but Haynes wasn’t quite ready. Instead, in January 1967, he enlisted in the Air Force.

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.”

David Valladolid


By Kassandra Balli

After almost getting his eyes blown out of his head by a mine in Vietnam, David Valladolid was hospitalized for three months. He lay flat in a bed in a hospital in Saigon for 30 days; doctors feared that if he moved and began to bleed, he would go blind. Today, doctors still say it is a miracle that he regained 90 percent of his eyesight.

Frank Martinez


By Julia Bunch  

Frank Martinez, a Colorado native, was a family man and a college student in the mid-1960s. Surely, he wouldn’t be sent to Vietnam.

But then he got the letter from the Army.

“I didn’t think I would get drafted because I had a daughter,” Martinez said. “I told this other Hispanic guy I knew, Joe Castro, ‘There’s no way they’re going to draft you. You’ve got a little boy!’ But then we both got drafted.”

Martinez and Castro used their friendship to prepare for the war.