Hispanic veterans share their memories of the Vietnam War
Sept. 12, 2017
Oscar Urrea’s family served in the military for over a century, a tradition that continued with Urrea’s decision to serve in the Vietnam War. He served as a cryptologist for the Army and saw combat in Cambodia, as well as near the Laotian border.
Urrea experienced very little prejudice on the battlefield but off-duty was a different story. “You had two factions in Vietnam. You had the country western guys…and then everybody else,” Urrea said. Despite this divide, Urrea says he never felt mistreated due to his ethnicity.
Robert Hernandez is the official historian at American Legion Post 41 in Phoenix. He chose to serve in the Air Force coming from an Army family, a decision Hernandez describes as, “the best mistake I ever made.”
After serving for 30 years, Hernandez worked in the aerospace industry. The most discrimination he faced throughout his career was being reprimanded for speaking Spanish, something he and his friends “never gave much thought at the time.”
Pete Rosales served as a Marine in the Vietnam War, and is now a member of the Honor Guard at the National Memorial Cemetary in Phoenix.
He served as a flamethrower in the Marines, then a battle scout working with Navajo code-talkers. He also didn’t experience much racism during his military career, saying that “the dedication to America and the dedication to the Corps…made the Marines so strong, so efficient because it’s all one working machine.”
This is an excerpt from the Arizona PBS-produced “Vietnam: Arizona Stories.”