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"I accept the responsibility for advocating for those who can’t, because I’ve already paid the price, and I have that right." (Video Interview, 1:08:26)

   Arthur Lee Guerrero
Image of Arthur Lee Guerrero
Arthur Guerrero [2008]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army
Unit: Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP), 191st Military Intelligence Detachment, 1st Cavalry Division
Service Location: Fort Polk, Louisiana; An Khe, Happy Valley, and Bon Son, Vietnam
Rank: E-5
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Arthur Guerrero arrived in Vietnam in September 1966, and on his first mission in the field, he saw the man next to him killed and others around him wounded. He escaped injury that time, but he wasn’t so fortunate seven months later. Horribly wounded and piled into a helicopter like a piece of wood with corpses and other wounded, Guerrero hung on to life and underwent extensive rehabilitation. "I never thought of myself as being courageous but self-sustaining," he told an interviewer many years later. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ten years after his wounding, and from his wheelchair, he has been fighting another battle, this one for the rights of veterans to the best medical care possible.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (10 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (90 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (10 items)
Divorced at 21, got his draft notice; younger brother was also drafted and served in action in Dominican Republic; basic training wasn't challenging for him physically; became an acting sergeant; advance infantry training in Louisiana in conditions similar to those in Vietnam. (04:41) Arriving in Vietnam in September 1966; becoming emotional as he recalls early days in country; assigned to pick up scavengers trying to pick up materiel; attacked by enemy; man next to him was killed; others around him wounded; that was his welcome to Vietnam; he took control of the unit, and they were extracted; assigned to do first-line intelligence in two-man team; no R&R for six months; covering a wide area of the country. (08:49) Camaraderie of war; difficult to talk about that subject with someone who hasn't been there; never saw any racial discrimination; recalling some individuals who were with him on April 23, the day he was wounded. (07:51)
How he was wounded; calling for a rescue; chopper couldn't land because of tree stumps; piling casualties into chopper; meeting pilot some years later; pilot amazed he survived his horrible wounds. (03:59) "Premeditated courage" of his comrades; thinks he is self-sustaining rather than courageous; experience of war changes you forever; only regret is that some Americans don't understand the tragedy of war; has advocated for 22 years on behalf of veterans with special needs; concerned about welfare of veterans in current war; no regrets about Vietnam, believing it a just war; returning there in 1998 to participate in a race; impressions of how the country had changed; frustrations with the cumbersome process through which vets are treated. (08:45) April 23, the day he was wounded: evacuation to the field hospital and then surgical facility; to Okinawa; developing a blood clot in his shoulder, which a nurse relieved for him; other patients rooting him on to start walking again; first signs of multiple sclerosis, not diagnosed for 10 years. (09:15)
Crowded conditions at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Colorado; conditions have not really changed in over 40 years; only difference is advocacy groups pushing to give veterans more help under better conditions. (02:45) Immediate readjustment after he left the Army; came down with malaria; battles with alcohol; urging veterans to talk about their problems for the relief pattern it brings. (04:40) His advocacy work for veterans; once you're disabled, you’re an expensive commodity; insurance companies either drop you or make it difficult to buy; misplaced priorities in government spending on defense and veterans. (07:38)
Coming back from Vietnam into San Francisco, where students from Berkeley called them baby killers; that motivated him to advocate for vets. (01:27)  
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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