Their travels took them to Fort Wayne, Indiana, and to Fremont, California. Ultimately, he graduated from high school in Laredo, Texas. He was inducted into the U.S. Army and later graduated from Army Officer School as an Infantry Officer. He served at Ft. Bliss and later in Vietnam with the First Air Cavalry as a Platoon Leader and Infantry Company Commander.
I No Hero tells the story of growing up in a new country and defending what that country stands for, despite the unpopularity of the stance that the United States took during the Vietnam War. Villarreal's story explores the sacrifices that Americans make to insure our freedoms.
Related collections and offers
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.54(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
I No Hero
By Victor M. Villarreal
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Victor M. Villarreal
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLiving in Mexico
It was the summer of 1947 in a small ranching community when I arrived on the scene via mid-wife. The community is named "El Ebano" after a large shady tree that abounds in the area. The nearest large city is Sabinas Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. It was the 5th of July and in the United States people were just finishing the Independence Day Celebrations (and why not the big war had ended just a few years earlier.)
I was born to Gregorio and Juanita Villarreal and I was their sixth child. The oldest was Gregorio Jr. who was followed by Ofelia and then Roberto who was followed by Cesarita. When sister Armandina was born it was not long after that Cesarita died at the age of two of childhood diseases. Then I was born and shortly thereafter Armandina died also of childhood diseases. Four years after that the last child was born, she was named Lilia. The family never numbered more than seven including my parents.
Father was away working in the United States that summer and it was up to Mom to take care of the kids, run a small store and take care of the milk cows. The cows would be milked daily and they were turned loose to graze in some community acres that were to be used by the village people. The cows would wander down this strip looking for foliage and then return to the home corral daily. Of course their calves were penned up and they would summon the cows with their clamor for milk. Before the calves were fed the cows were milked and the milk was picked up by a milkman who would take the milk to Sabinas to be processed into cheese.
Mom had the choice to name me and she considered many names until one day a relative came to visit who was named Victor. The old boy had been a high ranking officer in the Mexican Army but apparently was a rebel in some way and had been cast away and was now retired. He spent most of his time visiting relatives and telling stories about his military life. Well, thanks to his timely visit, I picked up his name.
Father would occasionally write and send money which was needed to carry on the everyday life on the rural village. He was working in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas for a railroad company that would legally contract workers because of the shortage due to the war. From the Rio Grande Valley he was contracted to a cattle ranch named "La Tortuga" (turtle) near Big Wells, Texas. When father was not working in the U.S., he would be home working with the milk cows. He would do a lot of hunting in the nearby ranches and mountains. Deer and turkeys were always on the menu at home. Sometimes Dad and his brothers would go trapping in the mountains for ringtail, a small exotic animal that was harvested for its fur.
Growing up at "El Ebano" was a true adventure for me because there were many things to do. When I started crawling, my favorite past time was to wander off from the big "Jacal" (which was a large old fashioned home with a thatched roof). We lived in the "Jacal" and I would head for the corral pens. Once in the cow pens, I would look for the biggest and freshest cow pie, and well, by that time, I was hungry. By the time my babysitter, who was my older sister Ofelia, would find me, I had indulged in the cow pie. Somehow none of the cows stepped on me. Then as I became more mobile, I wandered down to the Arroyo El Ebano which occasionally has running water and boy did it feel good. The village boys were always down there playing and even taking care of the little ones. And then there was looking for frogs, snails and horny toads. Boy! That was a lot of fun.
Mom would do her best o always provide at least one gift for each child during the Christmas holidays. She would make us write a letter to Santa Claus and to ask for what we wanted. Everyone was conservative in their requests, except Roberto. His list was always the longest. One year shortly after the big war, he asked for a toy tractor so he could do some planting and not have to use oxen. But the request he made that was very humorous was for a large sack of flour so mother could make us flour tortillas. He explained he was tired of eating corn tortillas, because Mexico was exporting all the flour to the U.S. so they could make biscuits for the "Gringo soldiers" fighting oversees. Since eating was a big adventure for me, I was more concerned for a small jar of mayo, but just for me.
At age five we move to Sabinas and father purchased this large property on the outskirts of the city. We lived next to the Rio Sabinas and again I had a built in play ground with the river behind our house. Most of the time the river flowed clear blue water, but even during hard times when it would get stagnant there were many fishing holes that provided fishing and splashing in the water. Moving to the city meant going to school and I was not willing to do that voluntarily.
Sabinas Hidago is located with mountains to the south and west making it very warm in the summer and with semiarid lowlands to the north making it cold in the winter. Having no protection from the north make it windy and cold in some months, but very warm in others since the cool westerly winds do not flow in the summer because of the mountains. The town is blessed with a natural sweet water spring (El Ojo de Agua) that flows thru the edge of town and helps with the growing of soft skin avocados. The young women of the area are usually gainfully employed in the numerous dress factories and embroidering bed sheets and pillow cases. The young men who are not employed in the few jobs available there, make their way north to the United States in search of work.
I started first grade at the age of five and hated every moment. School was divided into two buildings. One for boys and one for girls and they were about one block apart from each other. Basically, we never saw the girls unless it was before or after school. The boys' building was like an inclusive fortress. We did basically everything inside until released. I later studied buildings such as these but I think they were called prisons. I hated to go to the bathroom which was a large room with two stools and a long urinal where you stood and peed. The standing there was not bad unless one of the school bullies was there and "accidentally" pushed you into the canal that was usually full of urine. It was no use to complain because it would only get worse.
School would start early and my newly acquired friend Benito Juarez, and I would walk together about two miles to the "Colegio" as it was called. At about noon they would release us to walk home (most of the time we were so hungry, that we ran) to return at 3 P.M. and then be released again about 6 P.M. This meant a long lunch break which was done because of the intense heat during the noon hours. This meant eating lunch, doing homework that had not been done, or a quick trip to the river before returning to school. Sometimes getting home meant that lunch was not ready and something had to be purchased from the city. Sometimes a trip to the "molino" was necessary. The "molino" was a mill where I would take boiled corn kernels and they would mash it for the corn tortillas. The mill was about a block short of reaching the school. My underarms were pretty sweaty by the time we returned to school.
The classroom activities were pretty stringent. Most of our learning involved reading, writing, and arithmetic. Most of the time only the teacher had books and he would read to us on different topics mostly the history of Mexico. Then, there were the writing assignments which involved a lot of writing in those big brown writing tablets. The arithmetic was probably the hardest as it involved a lot of writing problems in the tablet and most of all go to the board and write problems that were dictated by the teacher and have the class correcting or humiliating you, mostly the latter.
Then, there was recess which was a social moment and everyone would talk about the movies they had seen. Most of the discussion would involve the latest Gene Autry movie, and there was Red Ryder and even The Lone Ranger. There was little talk about the Mexican movies; it was mostly the Anglo movies, even though; most of us could not understand English. There was a lot of reading the sub-titles. Then we had to go back to the classroom. There were no organized sports until later years.
Finally, school was dismissed and it was the long walk home, now there was no need to run. Benito and I would continue talking about the western movies as we walked over the long metal bridge over Rio Sabinas. From the bridge we would look up and down the river to see where the activity was. Once we spotted other boys playing in the water, we would go home and disappear down to the river to join them. If we had a net we would net the deep water holes for fish. As soon as we caught some we would build a fire and throw the fish on the coals. One boy would get the chore of throwing the fish back into the fire. It seemed the fish would protest the barbecue by jumping out of the fire until the heat killed them and they would get cooked. Then it was time to eat them. Some of the boys would remove the scorched scales and the fish guts. But for this kid who had had lunch in the cow corral, this was a small problem.
At dark we would return home to do our homework and get cleaned up since we smelled of fish. Oh; those were the days. Occasionally we would venture farther up or down the river. Then we would venture into a large orange grove own by a rich man named Antonio Gonzalez who lived in a mansion in the front of the orchard. We would play with his grandsons Cesar and Antonio III, but all the time we were spotting which trees had the bigger oranges. Those trees would play an important part for our visit to the orchard later in the evening under the cover of darkness. Sometimes we would hit some apple trees that they had in front of the main house. We never disclosed to our rich friends what we would do at night because we did not want to lose their friendship. It never occurred to us to ask them for oranges, Hell, they were so rich and nice they would have probably given us the fruit.
One day Dad asked us if we wanted to go to live in the U.S. It seemed that his employer Alvin Blaylock in Big Wells, Texas was willing to sponsor us to legally immigrate to reside in the U.S. Everyone said yes, but I was confused because all my friends were in Mexico, but the jars of mayonnaise were in the United States.
Then the preparations started. First, father had to do the leg work at the American Consulate in Monterrey. There were medical exams to take. Also, there were the visa fees to pay, which were $25.00 dollars for each one of us. The currency had just risen from $8.00 pesos for each dollar to $12.50 per dollar. There were transportation arrangements to be made since we had no automobile. This new adventure was a big hassle and expensive too. Now, we were ready to travel to the United States of America (or as I called it the other side).
Chapter TwoComing to America
It was the summer of 1954 when father finished all the requirements for us to go to the U.S. and as we left via commercial bus to Nuevo Laredo to make the official entry at Laredo, Texas, it started to rain in great quantities. The rain did not dampen our spirits but the Rio Grande River reached flood status and without to much warning it swept away the Bridge at Laredo. Yes, what luck, we were in Nuevo Laredo and there was no longer a bridge to enter the United States. The Corps of Engineers quickly started a portable pontoon bridge and father obtained a job working at the site. We went to live with some relatives in Nuevo Laredo while the bridge was made operational.
Finally, the big day came in September 14, 1954 we were going to be allowed to enter the United States. We had to walk with all personal belongings to the edge of the bridge where a taxi would take us across. As we made our way through the crowds of people near the bridge, my brother Roberto crossed a street with all the bags he was carrying and he did not see a taxicab while trying to cross, and the cab almost ran over him. The driver of the cab yelled at him "Hey pendejo" but my brother quickly answered "Tu madre cabron". Those were fighting words and the taxi driver quickly exited the cab to confront Roberto when my father, who was at least six feet and probably 240 lbs, came into the picture in defense of his child. The taxi driver quickly retreated and the confrontation was over. We boarded another cab and headed due north across the pontoon bridge that would go up and down like a roller coaster. There was a lot of yelling and screaming as the old car made its way across the pontoon bridge.
We finally arrived on U.S. soil at the Border Station at Laredo. We were herded inside the building and then to the basement to get lice powder on our heads. After our packets were opened and all information verified we were released and legally admitted residents for permanent residence. Dad went to look for a taxi and off we headed north to Big Wells on H-81 until we reached Dilley, Texas and then west on H-85 to Big Wells.
Well, we were home for a while in the tiny town of Big Wells. It did not seemed too different from Sabinas except there were no shoe shines boys along the main street, or any other street. The big difference was that Mother went to Julian Meridith General Store and quickly came back with flour and mayo. She also has some new goodies named Spam, canned winnies, deviled ham, and canned beef. Man, I thought, these "Gringos" think of everything. I thought to myself, and I was resisting this, this is like being in heaven.
Dad took us to visit Mr. Blaylock who lived in a fairly big, white house just off H-85 and then we went to live with Aunt Florinda Martinez. Florinda was one of two of Mom's sisters that lived in Big Wells. The other was Tomasita Munoz. Living temporarily with my aunt was great although her home was not very big, it was nice and warm during the coming winter. Florinda's family had grown and left except for Homero her smallest. Homero would take us everywhere in his old Hudson car. We could not use the trunk, however, because he had it filled with cement blocks so that it would be real low in the back and would have better traction when peeling out.
Reality set in real quick when I found out I had to go to school. Big Wells Elementary was in the middle of the small town and I had to walk to school. School was different in the United States. Here everyone had books and they had a gym to play basketball or games when it was cold outside. Even thought there was no school lunch, they did have a break in the morning. For two cents daily they would give you a small milk or chocolate milk. Boy, this was all right, even if I had to go home for lunch.
Aunt Florinda had a grandson named Guadalupe "Pin" Villarreal and he would walk with me to school. He was about one year older and had his own bike, this gave him status. Ruben Ceniceros who was called "El Raccoon" because of the dark shadows around his eyes lived across the street and would also walk with us. Ruben was a very nice person and I would spend a lot of time at his house playing. At school I met Eliseo Talamantes and for the years we lived in Big Wells we became very good friends. His cousin Armando Talamantes was also in the class as was Armando Rodriguez who was a real cowboy even at that young age. Armando lived in the east side of town and always had horses and other animals. There was Onesimo Benavides and Jose Martinez and some girls, one was Gloria Rubio and another was Victoria Talamantes who was a younger sister to Armando Talamantes. We were all in the same grade and Mrs. Picket was our teacher. Mrs. Picket was married to our post-master.
Excerpted from I No Hero by Victor M. Villarreal Copyright © 2010 by Victor M. Villarreal. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1 Living in Mexico....................1
Chapter 2 Coming to America....................9
Chapter 3 The Migrant System....................16
Chapter 4 California Here We Come....................29
Chapter 5 Good Times at Martin High....................44
Chapter 6 I'm in the Army Now....................59
Chapter 7 Basic Training....................65
Chapter 8 Advanced Individual Training....................67
Chapter 9 Officer Candidate School....................70
Chapter 10 Duty at Fort Bliss, Texas....................77
Chapter 11 Jungle School in Panama....................82
Chapter 12 Arrival In Viet-Nam....................88
Chapter 13 The Johnny Heath Circus....................93
Chapter 14 What are you doing laying down there 1-6?....................96
Chapter 15 The River Boats....................100
Chapter 16 Sabor a Mi (It tastes like Me)....................102
Chapter 17 Return to Quan Loi....................106
Chapter 18 Christmas in the boonies....................108
Chapter 19 Capt. James Graham at the helm....................110
Chapter 20 MadMex and the Rice....................114
Chapter 21 Meet Father Hugh Black....................123
Chapter 22 The Jerry Moore Story....................126
Chapter 23 Harold Hopper meets the Snake....................130
Chapter 24 LZ Grant under attack....................133
Chapter 25 The first attack came on February 23 1969....................134
Chapter 26 The Second Attack on March 08, 1969....................136
Chapter 27 The third attack came on March 11-12, 1969....................140
Chapter 28 The Battle of the Goose Egg....................142
Chapter 29 The John Nurse and David Heiner Story....................162
Chapter 30 The fourth attack on LZ Grant on May 12, 1969....................168
Chapter 31 Duty at Camp Gorvad....................172
Chapter 32 Back in the USA....................177
Chapter 33 The Border Patrol in Laredo, Texas....................187
Chapter 34 Agent duties at Laredo....................191
Chapter 35 My new career in the US Border Patrol....................193
Chapter 36 Jim Turner and the alien baby....................198
Chapter 37 The Old Smuggler and I....................201
Chapter 38 The Goat Man Incident....................205
Chapter 39 The Border Patrol without gas....................208
Chapter 40 The night of the fat bimbos....................209
Chapter 41 The night of the fire....................211
Chapter 42 Rudy and the Aliens....................213
Chapter 43 The Goodyear Eagle Tire Incident....................215
Chapter 44 The Shooting Incident in South Laredo....................217
Chapter 45 Run Ruffel Run....................220
Chapter 46 Rudy and the Hobo....................222
Chapter 47 The Dr. Ciro Lopez Story....................224
Chapter 48 The Pedro Dominguez Corruption Case....................230
Chapter 49 Conclusion....................234