Could it Really be That Long Ago?

On December 23, 1965 I was 19 years old, living in East LA with my parents. My mother said, “Phil, this looks important,” as she handed me a letter from the government. It was my draft notice ordering me to report for duty on January 4, 1966.

Five months later I found was in the Central Highlands of Vietnam with the First Cavalry Division as a medic. That was absolutely the longest year of my life but somehow or other I survived and flew home June, 1967.

Phil in Vietnam, 1966

My uncle Monty picked me up at the airport in San Francisco. Instead of taking me home he brought me to Haight-Ashbury which was the zenith of the hippie movement during the Summer of Love. I was still wearing my army uniform while walking down the streets filled with hippies playing music and singing and looking at me saying, “Hey, brother, make love, not war.” I never felt more out of place.

Back in LA my parents were happy to have home as was my girlfriend until we broke up a few weeks later.

I soon found myself in Griffith Park at a love-in. There were thousands of long haired hippies and I was out of my army uniform. The marijuana smoke floated through the crowd like a cloud. At the merry-go-round a band was playing loud. The band was The Doors and the girls and half the boys were screaming at Jim Morrison that they loved him. The crowd, including myself, were mostly undressed.

I grew my hair long and stopped shaving. I went to East LA College and had to carry my discharge papers with me to prove that I’d already been to Vietnam because many of the professors accused me of going to school to avoid the draft.

For the next thirty years Vietnam Veterans were treated in less than a positive light including being portrayed in movies and TV shows as trouble. That included the military service organizations such as the American Legion who for a long time shunned Vietnam Vets.

The good thing about Vietnam for me was learning how to survive. I made it through Vietnam so I could make it through anything else including job losses, breakups and post traumatic stress disorder.

It took a long time for me to feel like I was back home but I must say, there’s no place like home.Back from Nam


About Sr Felipe

I grew up in East LA, was drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam as a medic with the 1st Cav from 1966-1967. I survived that, came back to LA, went to East LA College and Cal State LA, became a social worker in Ventura, CA and moved up to Chico, CA in 1975. I started Sr Felipe's Salsas making organic salsa, enchilada, BBQ and pasta sauce that was available in natural food stores nationwide from 1980-2005. I've been doing a radio show on KZFR, Chico, 90.1 FM every Tuesday from 7:30-10:00 PM streamed live on where I play oldies from the 50s & 60s, doo-wop, Latin, folk, country and Gospel music and interview interesting people in the community. For the past three years I've been teaching beginning guitar through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute through Chico State University.
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