Eraldo Lucero was drafted into the Army on March 10, 1969. He was twenty-two years old and a part-time student at the University of New Mexico. He had recently married and his wife was expecting their first child.
Lucero had basic and Infantry AIT at Fort Ord. While waiting for his orders to go to Vietnam at the Oakland Army Base in California, Lucero was called into the office of one of the base’s commanding officers. The officer gave him the opportunity to skip the assignment to the war zone. That came about as a result of a plea that his mother had made to his U.S. Senator, Joseph Montoya, an old family friend, asking that Lucero be spared going to Vietnam because he was the only son in a single-parent family.
The officer told Lucero he could be reassigned to Korea, Europe, or stateside. “The initial feelings scrambling through my mind were that by choosing not to go to Vietnam as initially assigned, I would later regret this decision as not having properly served my country in time of war as my dad had done before me,” Lucero writes in Echoes of a Distant Past: Screaming Eagles: Vietnam War Memoirs, 1969-70 (CreateSpace, 133 pp., $12.98, paper). “I sensed the commanding officer’s surprise when I responded that I would prefer to go to Vietnam as previously assigned.”
Little did he realize, Lucero says, “that this decision would, one day, come back to haunt me while fighting in the jungles of Vietnam and would forever affect my life in a manner only experienced by those exposed to the horrors of war and the subsequent psychological effects of combat action.”
Lucero flew to Vietnam on August 10. He wound up doing a combat-heavy tour with A Company of the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment.
Lucero tells his story well, including details of Operation Texas Star, which lasted from April to September of 1970 in the forbidding, triple-canopy jungle of the A Shau Valley during the first stages of Vietnamization. Lucero also does a good job describing how he managed to battle PTSD, complete his education, find meaningful employment, and become active in his community.