Juan Casillas

After researching the history of the Vietnam war, I called my mom and asked her if she knew anyone who went to Vietnam that I could interview. She thought for a while and suddenly remembered that she has a cousin who is a veteran of the Vietnam war. She encouraged me to call him, but I told her that: "please, shouldn't I know a little bit of information about this guy first?"

She says: "Juanchi, I know this man since I was little. We were very close friends in high school. He was one of the greatest athletes of the school. He represented Puerto Rico in competitions against Cuba and the Dominican Republic. You can not imagine how good and fast he was. Well, just so you can know, he was ranked number 20 in the country for being an outstanding track and field runner. But now, Juanchi, those things are only memories, memories, and more memories."

After hanging up the phone, I immediately called him and introduced myself. We talked for a while about what is going on in Puerto Rico and about the family in general. He was in a cheery mood at the beginning of the conversation, but as soon as I began to question him, his attitude changed completely.

"What happened in Vietnam?" was my first inquiry. There was a moment of silence on the other line and instead of receiving a direct answer, I was told that he was not willing to answer that question. After 3 minutes of noiselessness, he quickly said what he was willing to tell me about Vietnam.

He basically said that he was drafted when he was 20 years old and that the 2 years he spent there are a part of his life he would rather forget. He stopped once again and I asked him if he was feeling all right. He said, "Juanchi, the problem is that you will never imagine how much suffering and pain I saw in that place. There is not one book, article, or encyclopedia that can really describe the human disaster that took place in Vietnam. There is nothing worse in this world than killing a man who you know has a family; destroying their future. Sad, it is very sad, but it is the truth, and it turns more complex when you realize that you were part of that truth.