A publication of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress

October 2001/November 2001

Minority Affairs Committee Report

All Proud Americans

By Francisco F. Ivarra, Chair

The Minority Affairs Committee met on Friday and Saturday during the October 9-13 VVA Board of Directors meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland. We have some outstanding and impressive members who are strongly committed to guiding the future success of this committee. Fara Sanchez has been appointed Vice Chair and Ed Chow will serve as Special Assistant to the Committee. Subcommittees have been established to research the history of the committee; to define the current role of this committee; to develop the meaningful goals and objectives of the committee; and to implement the ways and means to remain a viable and visible committee.

We also plan to offer historical footnotes on the contributions made by minority veterans during times of war and peace. I would like to provide the following footnotes about Hispanic Americans: "Since our nation’s founding, Hispanic Americans have played an integral role in our country’s exceptional story of success. Hispanic Americans served with heroism in every major American military conflict," President G.W. Bush, October 2, 2001.

During the Vietnam War, one in two Hispanics who went to Vietnam served in a combat unit, one in three was wounded in action, and one in five was killed in action.

The first Hispanic awarded the Medal of Honor was John Ortega, Civil War, January 1865.

The last Hispanic awarded the Medal of Honor was Alfred Rascon, Vietnam War, February 2000.

Fourteen Hispanics were awarded the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War.

The first POW in Vietnam was Sgt. First Class Isaac Camacho, captured November 22, 1963. He was also the first POW to escape captivity during the Vietnam War.

The last solider to leave the U.S. Embassy in Saigon was Master Sgt. Juan J. Valdez, April 30, 1975.

According to the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, among those experiencing high war-zone stressor exposure, there is a 34 percent rate of PTSD among whites, 38.2 percent PTSD among blacks, and 48.4 percent among Hispanics. The severity of adjustment problems has been found to correlate with the amount of combat involvement.

The 65th Puerto Rican Infantry Regiment served during the Korean War (1950-53) and was awarded 134 Silver Stars, 562 Bronze Stars, and 8 Distinguished Service Crosses, a Presidential Unit Citation, a Meritorious Unit Commendation and two Republic of Korea Unit Citations.

"Hero Street USA" in Silvis, Illinois, was only one and a half blocks long and was home to 22 Mexican families and had 84 men serve in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Thirteen of these men were from the two Sandoval families, three of whom were killed in action. There is no question that Hero Street stands alone in American military history.

As Hispanics, we are proud of who we are and whom we represent. Names like Molina, Sanchez, and Benavidez do not make us different, but do give us an identity. This identity is unique and deniable, but the one undeniable fact is that we are all proud Americans. Our common bond is that we are veterans of war who have fought or served to preserve our freedom. It is this freedom that gives me the privilege and honor to say, "Welcome home York, Sakuma and Rodriguez."

   

E-mail us at TheVeteran@vva.org


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