Coachella Veteran Recalls His Vietnam Experience
By Aurora Saldivar, Coachella Unincorporated
Danny Castro was 23 when he volunteered to serve in the Vietnam War, along with many of his friends, for what he hoped would be a great life experience.
“I felt it was an experience. Something that I could do with my buddies,” he says. “If they could go and come back, then I could go and come back, too.”
Castro served in the Armory Unit, driving an armor personnel carrier during his 1968-1970 stint in the army.
He proudly shares photos of his time spent in Vietnam, including the vast expanse of jungle and the tanks they slept in while on patrol. The photos also feature the faces of the men who fought alongside him, and he is still in contact with many of them.
Unfortunately, some of his army buddies never made it back from Vietnam.
“You make friends quickly in the army,” explains Castro. “I had some more friends who got killed in the fire from the rocket grenade fight, and when it was all over I cried like a baby. We all did.”
Castro recalls feeling lonely and homesick.
“Once when we were out in the brush, it was real quiet and I started thinking about home and I just started running. I had to get out of there. I got a quarter of a mile away, and I didn’t know what I was doing there. I didn’t even have a rifle, and when I walked back my friends said I must have been crazy.”
Castro is very proud of troops currently serving overseas.
“I have the most admiration for those guys that are going at 18 and 19,”says Castro. “I feel for them because every war is different. We were out in the jungle, and these guys are out in the mountains and villages where you can see. They are so brave for going to Iraq. “
Danny Castro says he would very much like to celebrate Veterans Day at the Palm Springs Parade, at the Coachella Valley Cemetery, or at Chiriaco Summit. Castro’s name is on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Chiriaco Summit under the American Legion.
Danny Castro is proud to have been able to serve his country, saying, “I don’t regret going. I am happy I went and happy I came back.”