Local Vietnam Veteran Visits D.C. Memorial
More than 40-years after serving in Vietnam, Hector Sanchez finally made the trip to Washington, D.C., to see for his self the black granite wall etched with the names of his fallen comrades.
Sanchez, like so many young men during that time, was drafted and fought as a member of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, Ivy Dragoons, 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam
He served for one year from 1969 to 1970 – a year that forever changed his life.
In fact, he didn’t speak about it for more than a decade after coming home.
However, he has learned how to share his thoughts about his time in Vietnam while spending time with those who also served, fought and survived.
Recently, he and his wife Carmen spent five days, from September 7, 2017 to September 11, 2017, in Washington, D.C., one of the many reunion trips they have made over the years.
While there, they toured monuments, participated in special ceremonies and reminisced with fellow veterans, their spouses and close friends.
He and other surviving members of the Ivy Dragoons, 4th Infantry Division took part in a special service in which they placed a wreath at the foot of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The wreath was fashioned in the likeness of their infantry crest.
Sanchez said the once in a life-time experience was emotional - to say the least.
“When I finally saw the wall and all of the names on it,” he paused. “I started crying because it was difficult.” Then, he couldn’t find any more words to describe it.
Sanchez had been planning to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall since his first Ivy Dragoons reunion. The group, organized to reunite fellow Ivy Dragoons and provide support to fellow veterans and their families, has been meeting in different locations throughout the United States since their first reunion in 1999.
Sanchez said every year they get together is special but this year’s reunion was exceptional.
Looking over the more than 58,000 names on the memorial wall, he searched for three names in particular - two men who died while fighting beside him in Vietnam and a young man, Danny Rutherford, from Sonora, who left and never returned.
“I found them all,” he said.
Although seeing their names on the memorial wall did bring a sense of closure it also reminded him of the tragedy they all had endured, Sanchez said.
While in D.C., Sanchez and his wife toured a total of twenty-five places and everywhere he went he said he felt a sense of respect and recognition while mingling among the crowds of citizens, tourists and veterans, like himself.
Wearing his uniform hat drew the attention of everyone around him and they raised their hands in salute of him as well as his fellow veterans.
“I was surprised. It was like everybody understood us,” Sanchez said.
Smiling, Sanchez said he is happy that he was finally able to add this to his list of memorable places to visit and he is looking forward to future reunion trips and making more special memories.
Agreeing with her husband, Carmen said the trip was really special for both of them.
“All of this (trips, reunions and the stories shared) just opens your heart to what they went through. And, this trip also gave us both an opportunity to learn about a lot of things that we have only heard about but hadn’t seen for ourselves. Now, we know more about the truth.”