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I graduated from Jefferson High School in May of 1965. Shortly after graduation I received a letter telling me to report to the reception station for my physical. I was on the verge of being drafted into the military. Immediately I went to the Navy recruiting office and enlisted. I always wanted to be a sailor anyway.

I reported to boot camp and underwent 12 brutal weeks of training. After completing boot camp, I reported to Navy Hospital Corps School in San Diego, California. I was assigned to be a Navy Hospital Corpsman (Medic). It was 16 weeks of intensive study and training in the area of medicine and patient care, experience that would shape my future. I was then assigned to the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. I worked in the wards for exactly six months. I worked all three shifts. It's not easy working in a hospital. Then came the shocker: I was drafted to the Fleet Marine Force (FMF). In October 1966, I reported to Medical Service School in Camp Pendleton, California, to be trained as a combat medic. Navy corpsmen serve as medics to the Marines. It was six weeks of grueling training. I was on my way to war.

I deployed to Vietnam in December of 1967. It was a very bleak time for my family and me. My mother and little brother saw me off at the airport. My mom could not stop crying. She gave me the blessing of the Cross on my forehead.

There are many events that I think about but there is one in particular that I must tell about. While on a company patrol, I got sick. Not to give our position away, I was directed by the senior corpsmen to go to the nearest camp that was about 3 miles down the road and railroad tracks. I was told to follow the tracks that would lead me to an Army outfit. As I walked alone, I kept thinking what would happen to me if the enemy spotted me. I was scared. Every step I took was in fear. I would be no match for the enemy. When I got to the Army camp, they were amazed that I walked that distance alone without being spotted. I have to believe I was not alone. My Guardian Angel was with me. The hand of God was over me.

There were many close calls and days when I was sure I was not going to make it. After 200 patrols and 3 major operations, I survived. In the last operation, my company got hit real hard. I was the only corpsman alive! It was not my time. These events inspired me to write a paper years ago for Veterans' Voices Magazine, "Not My Time." It was published nationally.

But not all of it was combat. As a corpsman, I rendered care not only to our Marines, but to the Vietnamese people. The infant in a village suffering from multiple infections is a heartbreaking memory I'll never forget.

I completed my enlistment in 1978. I have been awarded the Bronze Star, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Action, Vietnam Service & Campaign, 2 Good Conduct and other pertinent medals.

I am a graduate from El Paso Community College, Park University, and possess advanced degrees in Business and Theology. I am an ordained minister and happily married to my sweetheart, Alicia, of 44 years. I am retired from the VA after 36 years total federal service.

My Vietnam experience made me stronger. It taught me not give up. Life is too precious.


Uploaded on 10.10.2016 by El Paso Museum of History

Westside / Coronado, (2010 - 2019), War

  • Vietnam

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Albert A. Hernandez - Vietnam Veteran - 2016

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