STOCKTON, CA – Tracy Native and veteran Richard Soto began his life on 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 an 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 would start,” 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, “This one man was lying on a stretcher, he had a bandage on his head and for the next eight hours his head was just dripping into a pan. I was going to unwrap him and see what I could do when they said ‘you cannot do anything to him; you have to work on the ones you can save.’ — some just waited to die; not by their choice.”
“in a regular hospital, we can just order from central supply. On the ship 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.
Soto was relocated after his extended stay in the OR 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…