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Soldados: Chicanos in Viet Nam

"When I was being processed in San Diego, they asked me why I joined the navy. I told them that I had gotten mad at my girlfriend. I'm not sure why I said that."

Manuel "Peanuts" Marin
Seeabees - Navy
Tour of Duty: August 1966 to April 1967

The reason I joined the navy was very simple, I was naïve. I saw Pete Garcia with his navy uniform on. I thought he looked sharp. I wanted to wear one. When I was being processed in San Diego, they asked me why I joined the navy. I told them that I had gotten mad at my girlfriend. I'm not sure why I said that. It was partially true, but I guess I wanted to have a manly excuse. I didn't think of myself as a person who planned for the future. I couldn't actually come out and say that once I got out of high school, I planned to be a communications technician for four years. Then I planned to get out and go to college. That was not on my mind, so I had to come out with something; and that was the best answer at the time.

Soldados: Chicanos in Viet Nam (book cover)

Trujillo, Charley. Soldados: Chicanos in Viet Nam. San Jose, CA: Chusma House Publications, June 1993.

One of the reasons that went through my mind for joining the service was that I was once an illegal alien. I was brought over from Mexico at the age of one. Being a permanent resident, I felt that it was a good trade for being allowed to live here (U.S.) and go to school. By serving this country, I felt it was a way of paying off. It still goes, regardless of what has happened in between, whether I'd disagree with the politics of being in the service or not. I'm still sincere about this.

When I was about to finish boot camp, they told me that the school for which I had signed up, storekeeper school, was full. They told me there were a few other things I could do. I could go on sea duty and eventually I could apply for a school, or I could choose another school that was open. I wanted to go to storekeeper's school because my friend was going. I'm an impatient person. There was no way I was going on a ship. I hoped that eventually I was going to get into school. I wanted to get my training then. So I signed up for electricians' mate school. I didn't know the slightest thing about being an electrician.

I went to electrician school, and I couldn't handle it. I could do the manual part, but I couldn't handle the theory stuff. Some real nice people tried to help me pass the test, but I couldn't do it... From there I was sent to Coronado, California, where they put me in the worst job possible, which was doing mess hall work. I was there for three months. It was hard work because we'd get up at four in the morning and work until seven or eight at night. After those three months, I was sent to a maintenance unit. That was a lot better because it was an eight to five job. That's when I got in the Seabees. Most of the sailors that were in maintenance were Seabees, and that's how I ended up in Vietnam.

Next: Basic Training
"Fort Polk was real good training. They literally brainwashed you." | Go »





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