I lost four friends in Vietnam. None was old enough to vote, but old enough to die for their country. They were Ray Delgado, Mike Teague, Eddie Ephraim, and Willard Perry. All died in battle. I consider them heroes, not losers or suckers.
Ray and I were pre-school friends and attended the same church. Mike carried me off of the baseball field following an injury, though we were on opposing teams. Eddie became a friend when school segregation ended. Willard was a low-income guy who sought out low-income friends of any color.
I opposed the war. I wrote a paper and gave a speech in college on why the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were unbeatable. I don’t know how my friends viewed the war, but when their draft number was called, they responded and went to war. In 1969, we were losing about 300 Americans every week. My draft number was 309, which meant that it was highly unlikely that my draft number would ever be called. Besides, I was in college, married, and had a newborn son. Still, I felt a sense of duty to serve so I walked to the recruiting station to volunteer. I was rejected outright for the three reasons I just noted.
Over 55,000 Americans were killed in action. I went to the Vietnam Memorial Wall to see the names of my four friends. It gave me a sense of peace because I knew that their sacrifice would never be forgotten by the nation. I would never forget their lives and friendships.
I think it is unbecoming of anyone to call the estimated 1.2 million Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this nation, losers and suckers. I would say it is especially unbecoming of anyone who refused to serve and is now Commander-in-Chief of our military.
Dr. Juan Andrade, Jr.
United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, Inc.