Remembered at Last
One in a series of tributes to brave men and women
who served our country during The Vietnam War

John Velasquez
By Bill Youngkin
Special to The Eagle

Part Two
On Velasquez’s second day in Vietnam, as
one of the newest members of the Americal
Division, he was involved in a firefight in which
twenty-nine Viet Cong were killed or wounded.
He was now a combat veteran after just two
days in country.
According to Velasquez, “The next day we
loaded onto helicopters and headed off to the
jungle. The jungle would be my home for the
next year. The routine remained pretty much
the same. During the day we would often be
harassed by sniper fire and mortars and rockets
at night. We were given three days of rations,
loaded on a chopper and head out to some spot
in the jungle. We would dig a new foxhole each
night and the next morning fill it in so “Charlie”
couldn’t use it or set a booby trap in it. We had
a firefight about once a week but that began to
get progressively worse. What we didn’t know
was that the VC and the NVA were building up
their forces for the“Tet”offensive.”
“Around Christmas I was so sick with malaria
that I was sent to the field hospital. While I was
in the hospital, my platoon had our platoon
tent booby trapped and almost the entire
platoon was wiped out. I remember thinking
that the Good Lord must be looking out for
me. Looking back, that is exactly what must
have been happened during my whole tour in
Nam. We were supposed to have a cease fire
for Christmas, but we were attacked while I was
in the hospital. There I was, in bed, sick and
without a rifle to protect myself.”
“I was back with my unit by January.
During January, February and March we were
constantly in firefights because of the “Tet”
offensive. With the monsoon rains you would
cover up with a poncho but you had to leave
your head out so you could hear the enemy. It
was hard enough to hear the enemy in the dark,
but it was harder with the rain beating down on
you and the dark. I hated the dark and I still do,
to this day.”
“Every other night I went out with six to
eight other guys to set up outside our perimeter
so that we could catch “Charlie” in an ambush
or at least know they were coming and be able
to warn everyone. When we went out, we had
our rifles but mostly we relied on grenades. You
tried not to fire your rifle because at night the
muzzle flash would give away your position.
That’s why we carried extra grenades.”
“On one operation called Burlington Trail
our company was to take a hill. We were told a
platoon of NVA was on top of the hill. When it
became dark, we were resting, waiting for the
push up the hill later that night by our company

and one other company. About thirty minutes
before we were to begin, we came under
“The NVA knew we were there and what our
plans were. They were a much larger unit than
a platoon. They hit us hard. I was now in charge
of my platoon. We had a lot of new guys and I
was trying to not let them panic and for them to
keep their composure. I had one guy who was
so scared I put him in a foxhole and had him
reload magazines for the rest of us.”
“The NVA was swarming over portions of
our area. In addition to AK 47s they also had
flame throwers. We were now in a circle and
they were about to overrun us. Captain Sours,
our CO told everyone to get in a foxhole because
he was calling in an airstrike right on top of us.
We were now going to be hit by our own guys.
When that airstrike came, the NVA disappeared.
By daylight the fighting had ceased. During
the night you could see bodies laying all over
the place because of the light created by the
flame throwers. When the fighting ceased
and daylight came, there were very few bodies
left. The NVA had taken most of their dead and
wounded with them.”
“We had a lot of wounded and we called in
a medi vac chopper. One of our sergeants had
a severe abdominal wound. I took the sleeves
from his shirt and tied his insides back in. We
loaded him and others in the medi vac chopper.
As the medi vac was about to leave, it was hit
by a rocket and it blew up, killing all on board. I
had just stepped away from the medi vac when
it blew up. I was hit in the chest by a piece of the
chopper. Thankfully I had a flak jacket on, but it
hit me so hard it took the air out of me. Another
piece hit my leg. My leg hurt like hell but I was
able to patch it so I could walk.”
“I felt so bad because we had tried so hard
during the night to save our guys and they
were killed anyhow. Eventually we re-grouped
and walked away continuing to do what we
were supposed to do. Thankfully there was
no fighting that night. I hated the dark, but I
especially hated the dark that night. I guess it
is something that will always bother me, the
dark.” The conclusion of John Velasquez story
will be next week.
If you want to have a name added to the
Veterans Memorial, for more information, to
make a contribution, or if you know aWorldWar
II, Korean, or Vietnam War veteran whose story
should be told, or if you want to contribute to
the Vietnam Memorial that is to be dedicated,
contact the Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial at or Bill Youngkin at 979-7761325.

For more stories of local Veterans in their own words, log on to Brazos Valley Voices
podcast at, hosted by Tom Turbiville

PO BOX 3000, BRYAN, TX 77805


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