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For Anthony Rios Sr., his May 15 Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., stirred up some painful memories.
Rios, a U.S. Army Vietnam veteran who served from 1966-68, was one of 90 veterans to take the Honor Flight from Cedar Rapids last week.
Rios said that he still deals with the pain of how he and other soldiers were treated when they returned home from Vietnam.
“When I got out, I didn’t like the idea of how the people treated us when we got back here in the states,” he said. “I still carry that with me 50 years later.”
He said his treatment upon returning from Vietnam was especially difficult because he is Hispanic.
“Not only was I a Vietnam veteran, I was also Hispanic,” he said. “I’m sitting here fighting two battles at one time.
“I’m a Mexican being drafted and coming back, and they tell me I’m a baby killer and all that. I did what I thought was right. I did a job they told me to do, and all I wanted was to come home. There’s no reason to do that to somebody.”
Rios said that the poor treatment did not just come from civilians, but from other soldiers.
“I couldn’t join the American Legion or the VFW because they said it was not a war, and we were nobodies,” he said. “I was getting it from everybody. It took me five or six years before I could join.”
He understands that the Honor Flights are, in part, an attempt to make things up to veterans.
“The Honor Flight helped some, but very little,” Rios said. “I just don’t think it was right. The things they did yesterday just remind me of what should’ve been done 50 years ago. It’s hard to accept the way people now want me to accept it. I don’t think anything will ever change that.”
He did find some positives from the trip.
“Part of the positives is that they’re trying to tell us they’re sorry for the way they treated us, but 50 years is a long time to carry something,” he said. “I can understand that they’re trying to tell me they’re sorry for what happened, but it’s so hard to do that.”
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