Art & Culture

A local veteran’s experiences beyond the battlefield

A single photo inspired Armando Salcedo to become a paratrooper, and the loss of a friend over 50 yrs. ago had a profound effect on him

This article was written by former San Benito High School student reporter Ladesssa Henry and is part of the Veteran Voices Project.

At age 12, Armando Salcedo of Hollister knew he wanted to join the United States Army. Born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1942, he immigrated with his family to America in 1944. The family traveled through Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, before settling in San Benito County, where Salcedo later gained his U.S. citizenship. While in grammar school, he read an article about paratroopers in the Korean War, which inspired him to join the military and become one, too.

After graduating high school in 1960, Salcedo joined the Army and requested the airborne training. In order to be in the most disciplined, airborne infantry in the world, one had to have perseverance and grit.

In his interview with students enrolled in San Benito High School’s Mexican-American history class, Salcedo explained that many recruits dropped out within the first days of training at Fort Benning, Ga. due to the strenuous training or they didn’t like it. The difficulty and challenge resulted in a community of camaraderie and respect between soldiers. Since these men went through so much duress in training, they developed an unbroken bond.

Salcedo’s first jump from an airplane was hundreds of feet above the ground. It was an exhilarating, but nerve-wracking, moment for him. However, as he looked down, he noticed something.

“Privately, I like to think that God gave me a view of heaven looking down on earth,” he said, adding, “You see the world in a different way. You see the little trees, little houses, little cars going on the highway. You’re up there and you’re in a different world.”

Salcedo eventually joined the ranks of the 82nd Airborne.

Military service was an exciting part of Salcedo’s life, but it also meant dealing with the loss of friends along the way. Although Salcedo didn’t experience combat, the Vietnam War had a profound effect on him. His best friend, Robert Boss of Brockton, Ma., had been killed during his first month in Vietnam.

Before his death, Boss had brought Salcedo to his hometown to meet his friends and family. Prior to Boss’ deployment to Vietnam, the two friends promised to name their future, first born sons after each other. Salcedo would eventually honor that promise.

Since Boss had been in the 82nd, the company commander sent Salcedo and other members to Boss’s funeral. The death of his best friend would change his view of the military.

Salcedo returned home angry and saddened, but he wasn’t able to express it to his family. “I just kept it under. My family knew that I had been in the Army, and I tried to tell them [about] things that had happened, but they weren’t interested,” he said.

For years Salcedo didn’t know anyone else who shared his experiences. That changed when he started receiving services from the Veterans Administration in 2014.

He met other veterans who had similar experiences. Furthermore, he was able to share with other veterans things that they could only understand. “I didn’t really know them before, now I call them my brothers,” Salcedo said of these fellow veterans.

For Armando Salcedo, his years in the military had an absolute effect on his life. As a member of the 82nd Airborne Division, he had the sense of community among brave men like himself, who were willing to jump out of planes. Through that experience, he saw a different world from above the earth. He also saw the terrors of war beyond the battlefield with the loss of a dear friend. Furthermore, he was able to seek others who dealt with the same experiences, helping him to confront what he had buried decades ago.

More information:

Contact Frank Pérez at San Benito High School for more information about the project and the book that was produced containing twelve additional narratives about local, Latino Veterans. His email is, [email protected]

SBHS Mexican-American history class

Students enrolled in San Benito High School's Mexican-American history partnered with the San Benito Arts Council's on-going Veterans Voices Project last year to produce a book about local, Latino veterans. During the Fall and Spring semesters, students will honor the voices of our local, Latino veterans. In addition to the arts council, other project partners include: Community Media Access Partnership (CMAP); Voices of Witness; and BenitoLink. A community-wide event scheduled for May 2018 will showcase Latino Veterans Voices of SBC Project and provide the public the opportunity to meet the students and the vets who participated in the project.