MATURE SUBJECT MATTER, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED: WEDU is honored to present the personal Vietnam War experiences of our local citizens. The stories presented here have not been edited and are presented as originally shared by the author. The content may contain coarse language, images, or remembrances that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
Milton Caraballo R.’s Story
Shared on October 24, 2017
This opportunity came when I most needed it. My name is Milton Caraballo I was born in Puerto Rico. As more people know and understand about this Island since Hurricane Maria hit it; it becomes evident that we are natural born citizens of the United States of America! The opportunities and future seemed very bright for me in 1967 when a scout saw my athletic abilities in Baseball. I played for a popular professional team in Puerto Rico after school and on my free time. This was my dream and goal ever since I was five years old. My father who served in three wars WW2, Korea, and the beginning part of Vietnam mentored me and coached me in baseball. As history is written and the stars shine bright at night my life came to a crashing end. The “draft” came to Puerto Rico just like in the State-side main land and I was drafted. A local scout had also seen my talent and as I was excitedly signing a contract to play with the New York Mets; my house and all my surrounding neighbors, friends and family were gathered at my place for the signing of the contract. On the other side of my student life I was also acquiring a full four year scholarship to the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. I was blessed with academic and athletic talents. Yet, what I thought to be my future was really belonging to United States Army. My high school girlfriend was also going to attend UPR. One evening after having a family dinner with my girlfriend’s family I decided to announce that I’d rather flee the Island to Japan or Mexico to pursue my baseball, but when my father found out, he begged me not to humiliate him that way. After all he had gone to serve when he was just a kid. He cried because he knew how much I had worked to get where I was. I became rebellious and hid for some days away from my community and family, nevertheless the MP’s came and took me away. I was one of the many young soldiers whom did not go willingly; who were drafted. I also knew in my heart I was determined to come back alive and not in a casket. My whole life changed in a quick second the moment I stepped foot in Vietnam. The atrocities I witnessed. The murders. the raping of little innocent girls and boys. Above all the noise and doom at night I met a Medic whose only weapon was his small New testament bible in his front shirt pocket. He would read and encourage me in a spiritual way. During the whole fifteen months and some that I fought there I never got wounded, but I never slept and so I developed dark red spider veins in my eyes. Whenever it was my buddy’s turn to pull guard I would volunteer, I never trusted anyone to pull guard. I witnessed a couple of my buddy’s commiting suicide when they would read “Dear John” letters. I traded cigarettes for loops since I did not smoke, I’d rather eat what I could to stay up at night. I never wrote to my mom or to anyone, so they started to investigate if I was still alive. My mom called to her local political people she was connected to and to Congress. When I finally was told by my Commander to hurry up and write back to my mom, I knew then that I had to return “back to the world” as my buddy’s and I would say.
Sponsored in part by
Retired Officers’ Corporation at Freedom Plaza
Production Credits: THE VIETNAM WAR is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington D.C. Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Produced by Sarah Botstein, Lynn Novick and Ken Burns.
Funding Credits: Funding provided by: Bank of America; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; PBS; David H. Koch; The Blavatnik Family Foundation; Park Foundation; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; National Endowment for the Humanities; The Pew Charitable Trusts; Ford Foundation Just Films; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and Members of The Better Angels Society: Jonathan & Jeannie Lavine, Diane & Hal Brierley, Amy & David Abrams, John & Catherine Debs, Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, The Montrone Family, Lynda & Stewart Resnick, The Golkin Family Foundation, The Lynch Foundation, The Roger & Rosemary Enrico Foundation, Richard S. & Donna L. Strong Foundation, Bonnie & Tom McCloskey, Barbara K. & Cyrus B. Sweet III, The Lavender Butterfly Fund