Jose Cruz

Rank:

Cpl

MOS:

Year(s) in Nam:

68/69

Unit:

Delta 1/5

Contact Info Available?:

No

Status:

Retired

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Tell me about the time you found out you're going to Vietnam up to the time you left for Vietnam.

Everyday in 1968 there would be front-page picture and news reports about the Marines. I felt so proud
of being an American. I admired these Marines and their courage. I so wanted to be one but felt I
didn't have it in me. My best friend was KIA in Nam and on my 18th birthday (Feb. 1,1968) I enlisted in
the Marine Corps. Everyone in my platoon in Boot Camp knew we would most likely go to Vietnam.
I didn't care. I wanted to get there and help end the war (conflict) and get some revenge and satisfaction for the lost of American lives. My concerns were for the people I was leaving behind, my family and my girlfriend (who has now been my wife for the past 31 1/2 years).

Tell me something about your time in Vietnam.

Every week, we the members of Delta 1/5, would engage the enemy in at least 5 firefights. There were times when we had that many firefights in a day. It's just too many incidents to try and pinpoint a specific one. During the end of my Tour, there was a real good change in our platoon (#3 Platoon) when Jim Webb became the Platoon Commander. However a big change came over me when a good friend was KIA. Most of you know him as "Snake" in Jim Webb's book "Fields of Fire". His name was Jim Ward. We called him the "Snake Charmer". He was a true warrior and leader. He died a hero. While saving the life of his men, Jim (Snake) exposed himself to enemy gunfire and was shot while dragging his men to safety. I had shed many a tears for friends who were KIA or badly wounded but the death of Ward devastated me and changed my feelings about a lot of things. I was badly wounded 2 weeks after Ward's death. Just 20 days before I was to come home.

Tell me about your first few days back in the USA

I spent a month in different hospitals before I was finally brought to the Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where I would spend another 8 months until I received a Medical Discharged in February of 1970. The first time I drove a car my mother and girlfriend were in the car with me. I was driving by a construction area when all of a sudden they started up a "Jack Hammer". I thought I was being ambushed and instinctively dove for cover. No one in the car could figure out what was going on but panicked and screamed. I was under the steering wheel. The car stopped after hitting a tall curb. Luckily no one was hurt.

Tell me about you today, and how Vietnam has influenced what you do and how you live today..

We have seen so much death, suffering and destruction. We have felt so much the need for each other. The feeling of dependency is so strong in us war veterans. So much so that when we have a friend we will do anything to help and protect that friend. A friend means more to us than it does to the average person. We're not special. We just have gone through so many terrible experiences that have caused us to look at life, love, friendship and God in a different way. We appreciate all of this more because that is all we had (the life in us, the love of the Corps and our fellow Marine Brother, the friendship of our Marine Brothers and God who accompanied us throughout our ordeals). We left everything else behind to go to war. When we got back, it was then that many of us looked at people here in a different way. Because of the way we were treated after we got back. Life, love and friendship will always be more special to us. But there are several things that many of us still have in us that we can't shake off. We still continue the "watch" at night, sleep mostly in the day, trying to get rid of that never ending skin rash, reacting to sudden noises or physical contact, reacting to certain smells, and much more…We'll never be the same, but we are good people.

Give me a 1 or 2 liner about anything you want to say.

Like SMAN said, "We needed each other back in the Nam and we still need each other now." God Bless America and the Marine Corps. Semper Fi, my Brothers.

 

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