John Cortez was just 20 years old when he was drafted into the United States Army, and he had no idea what kind of battles were ahead.
"I never thought in my wildest dreams I was going to end up in Vietnam," said Cortez, 66.
Cortez was drafted into the 4th Infantry Division and he still remembers the advice his sergeant told him on his very first day.
"Do the best you can and try to make it home alive," he said.
That's exactly what Cortez did…but some of his comrades weren't so fortunate.
"I was in a battle called Chu Pa Mountain," Cortez said. "We were surrounded by the enemy... To make it short, lost some people. But I don't like to talk about that because some of those guys were close friends."
But beyond the battles, Cortez says there's a bigger picture of war.
"It was more than just a battle. It was more. It was something that...there's very unfortunate people in the world that we don't know what a war can cause...it causes casualties beyond our imagination," Cortez said.
And like the advice he got from his sergeant, Cortez wants to pass along some advice of his own.
"If a young man out there is listening, I hope that you understand that America didn't come cheap...a lot of people died. And a lot of my friends died in Vietnam."
Cortez wants to make it clear that he is not a hometown hero - but he knows of many.
"Let me tell you who the real hometown heroes are...I believe it's our parents. A lot of parents didn't get the credit for those kids that didn't come back and that to me is a hometown hero. It's our parents."
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