"I Have a Voice", Inteverview, Veteran

Interview: Vietnam Veteran

 Soto in his library

(bw) STOCKTON, CA – Tracy Native and Veteran, Richard Soto’s began his life in the south side with his widowed mother and 4 siblings.

Soto, after graduating high school enlisted into the military while the country entered into one of the most controversial wars, Vietnam, Soto too began in internal war aboard ship, a modified helicopter ship, where he worked In the operating room.

“We would pick up Marines in Okinawa, take them to play war games in the Philippines

 and then take them to Vietnam. When we heard about a hot spot of the Vietcong, we would drop the marines there and the Slaughter started,” he remembered.

 Whoever was left, the wounded were brought back to the ship’s operating room where Soto and the team would try to save who they could.

Unlike a Hospital, “When you have an undetermined number of casualties come over, your continuously making decisions on who you’re going to work on. “

 “This one case never leaves me,” Soto describes a man lying on a stretcher with his head bandaged and that for the next eight hours his head dripped was just dripping. Soto wanted to  unwrap him and see what he could do but he needed to work on others that he could save. he added, “Some just waited to die; not by their choice.”

In a regular hospital, like the one he worked in San Diego supplies can be ordered. On the ship they had to use what was available. “We were no longer cleaning the tools, we were heating them up and cooling them with saline and just recycling them — just recycling them,” he added.

Richard Soto home collection

Soto was relocated after his extended stay in the O.R. to the Philippines where he studied.  Today, he believes that more recognition needs to go to Hispanics that have served this country.

 After returning to the USA, he joined a few organizations such as Veterans against the war in Vietnam, but he felt that he didn’t want to deal with Vietnam.  ”I did not feel like anyone wanted to hear the story.  It’s been 40-50 years and people say ‘thank you for serving’ but the damage has already been done. “

Presently, Soto is a School Counselor and says recruiters do not like to come to his school, they don’t like him. “If we saw hundreds of people with missing limbs we wouldn’t support war but they are hidden out of sight where they are not being taken care of,” He often reminds his students of the reality of war.

Soto attending the wounded like he was trained in Vietnam at the L.A. Riots

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