Larry Holguin lives in Corcoran, California. He has a son, and is a retired correctional officer.
“When Charley first approached me to be involved with the book ‘Soldados,’ I told him no. I’m just another guy who went into the military, and my experience is private, nothing the public needs to know about. But Charley had a vision of what he was trying to do. He was trying to help somebody with the book, he had a goal in life. So I understood that, because I’d been with him, plus I’d been overseas, so I knew what he was talking about. I had never thought about talking about my experiences in Vietnam as helping others, just as my business. So I thought, ‘maybe I can help out, help Charley.’ My dad always told me, ‘you help people out, you don’t expect something back, you just hope that maybe down the line they’ll help someone else, and it will turn into this continuous chain.’
18 years ago, I didn’t have a son. Now my son is 18. I’m a retired correctional officer. After I got involved in the book with Charley, the book turned up in the prison, in the libraries. It scared the hell out of me. This was my personal business — here I am, a yard cop, and people are talking to me about it. I don’t want anyone at work knowing about my personal life! The book also came up in the high school where my son goes. I had a niece who was interested in it (my brother’s also a vet), and I had parents calling me up, asking me if their kids could do a report on me. I felt invaded. I didn’t want people telling me, ‘now I know why you are the way you are.’ I didn’t want pity, I would rather have respect. My son really doesn’t know much about Vietnam, other than what he’s read. Now that he’s read the book and he understands it more, I tell him, ‘don’t change your ways about me, I’m still your dad. I’m still the same person.’ So as far as the impact of the book and the film, it’s kind of good, it’s kind of scary. It opened up a lot of things, but I don’t like surprises. One of the things that makes it a lot easier is that I don’t find it so hard to talk about my experience in Vietnam any more. I can be more open, discuss it without the barriers coming up right away.”
Frank Delgado lives in Visalia, California. He is married and has a daughter and a son. He works for a dairy.
“I am doing a lot better now. I’ve been going through counseling with the Veteran’s Administration for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I’m doing both individual counseling and group, with a bunch of other veterans. That has really helped bring out a lot of things. We can talk about anything, there’s no surprises, nothing that no one has heard of.
Also, I’ve been talking to combat veterans who I know — some of them for the past 30 years — who I can tell need help but who don’t reach out. I’m trying to let people know about the programs out there to help us. For some reason, 70% of them don’t follow through. I say, ‘hey, there’s help out there, help for your family also, if you’re interested go sign up, I’ll help you,’ and 70% never get back to me. It’s part of PTSD, I guess, you’re so messed up you don’t realize it, you think, ‘I’m okay, there’s nothing wrong with me.’ Even though you do know that the person who went to war and the person who came back are entirely different. One friend said to me, ‘one person went over there and two came back.’
Working on the documentary was kind of an honor to me, because I feel that there are so many other Vietnam veterans that went through a lot worse… even though I saw some pretty gory things. It was important to show the Chicano perspective, which is different because of our culture, how we were raised, our work ethic, our food… Being over there, seeing so many Chicanos in combat positions, able to endure the hardships, it makes me think it was our Aztec warrior blood. I like to say that we were taken from the cotton fields straight into the killing fields, literally. It was an experience that none of us will ever forget.
I like to share it with other people, especially now, with this war going on. People tend to glorify war, make it something great. I’ll be in the break room at work and I’ll hear guys saying, ‘we oughta just drop a nuclear bomb and blow everyone up.’ That’s such an ignorant statement. If they were to see someone blown up, literally to pieces… It’s something awful. Afterwards you start thinking about it, asking yourself, ‘did I do the right thing? Did we really have to kill those people?’ Some of the people we killed we had no reason to, besides anger and frustration. I want people to know how horrible the experience of war is. There’s nothing good about it, nobody wins in a war.”
Charley Trujillo is a writer and owner of Chusma House Publications. He is currently in preproduction of a feature film based on his novel “Dogs From Illusion.”
“I am a writer, living in San Jose, California. I’m the author of ‘Soldados: Chicanos in Viet Nam’ and ‘Dogs from Illusion.’ 13 years ago, I quit my day job and started my own company because no one would publish my book, ‘Soldados.’ Today, everything is going well with my business, Chusma House Publications, and it’s getting better with the production and broadcast of our documentary. The book ‘Soldados’ is in its 6th printing, it’s available through amazon.com and on my website. For the past 13 years, it’s been used as a textbook in colleges, which is great.”