Veteran started U.S. life in service
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Valentin Cortez was born and raised in Mexico. He came to the United States at 18 years old to live in Roswell. Very near to his arrival he found himself drafted into the U.S. Army.
In October 1969, he went to Vietnam and would fight for his new country until November 11, 1970. He worked with crash and rescue during the war
Valentin Cortez is a retired truck driver and mechanic and is also a U.S. Army veteran. Here he is having lunch in a restaurant while on vacation in Guatamala this year.
and was a door gunner-one who operated the machine gun aboard the helicopter.
After the war he was in the National Guard for six years.
He took vocational courses for 18 months at ENMU Roswell for automotive technology. He also worked as an auto mechanic and is a retired truck driver of 22 years.
Cortez has been married to Juanita Cortez for 40 years and they have seven children.
Today, Cortez enjoys playing pool and participates in tournaments every week with the American Legion Post 25, team 4. He is a member of the American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), AMVETS, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and the Eagles. Cortez plans to visit Vietnam this month to see what the country looks like today.
What did you like about serving in the U.S. Army?
In the beginning I was hesitant about going to Vietnam. But I decided I needed to go because I would be fighting for the best country in the world.
What was your biggest challenge serving?
There was a mission I served when rescuing the commander bishop who crashed into the jungle and we had to get him. The trees were so high and we couldn’t see the helicopter and we had to go by the directions we were given.
What was one of your biggest challenges going to war so soon after immigrating to the U.S.?
I was drafted into the Army and was not even sure how. I tried everything to get out of it but nobody could help me. But I made it. It was January 4, 1968, at 18 years old when I came to the United States. I went into the Army in April 1968. I had a lot of trouble in basic training because I didn’t speak any English. This was one of my biggest challenges — to get orders and to not know the language. So, I appreciate the Army for sending me to school.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Being with family… some of them, anyway.
What’s your favorite TV show, past and present?
Cowboy shows like “Bonanza.” But there has to be Indians, too.
What’s your favorite taste?
What’s your favorite smell?
Coffee in the morning.
Tell us about your greatest individual accomplishment?
My family. They all have college educations and we all have very close relationships no matter how far we live apart.
Who’s invited to your fantasy dinner party and why?
My immediate family I grew up with. My mom, dad and my siblings. To have that moment back would be nice.
Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled?
My favorite recently was Guatemala. We were at the capital in Antigua. The buildings are 100 percent adobe. It was a type of adobe I have never seen before and I'm from Mexico. I went zip lining through the rainforest. I learned something about coffee on tours of coffee plantations. It was the best coffee there is.
What are your future plans?
I've been retired for 15 years and I plan to continue to enjoy it and visit family and travel as often as possible and keep playing pool.
— Compiled by CMI Correspondent D'Nieka Hartsfield