Rudy Montaño turns 67 this week. He served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War.
On Memorial Day:
I’ve lost three brothers in war. [On Memorial Day] I always go to the national cemetery to see my brothers. It’s a time of remembrance.
I don’t think we should be there. It’s a political war. Vietnam was the same thing: It was a political war. Afghanistan is a small country—what, 5 million? If we used our resources, we could end it tomorrow. In war, you should be able to go in there and end it.
The United States was built on war. It’s sad to say, but it’s true: After every war, we just thrive.
Chris N Cárdenas, 45, was in the US Navy during Desert Storm.
We were all volunteers, just following orders. We’ve all entered our time. That’s the foundation of this country, is war. That’s how we came to be. War sucks, but…you have to think about it because that’s exactly what’s happening with our country now. All the brothers there now—you understand. That is six years that’ll stick with me for the rest of my life.
On living through it:
How do some people win the lotto? It’s just fate, luck, a guardian angel—how do you sum it up? Why me and not them? Why them and not us? You just don’t know. That’s one of those questions that probably won’t be answered in anybody’s lifetime.
On Desert Storm:
It was nuts. They put you on the bow of a ship with night-vision goggles, looking for a black mine in dark water, and you hope you see it in time. When [a mine] went off, it was just a plume of black water, 25 feet wide, 100 feet high, and you’re just in amazement because this could’ve been you. I did so much in the Navy, man. It’s a rush. I saw the [Egyptian] pyramids and Pompeii. I went to Genoa, Italy on Columbus Day—boy, the wine flowed freely.
George Luján, 75, served in the US Navy during the Korean War.
I don’t agree with it, but it’s better they fight over there than they come over here—and they were gonna come over here.
On the Korean War:
I served on a destroyer for 3 years. It was all right, but it wasn’t easy. They were a lot stricter then than they are now. I got an honorable discharge. Now that I think back, it was a good thing because I served my country, and now I have the benefits of the VA [US Department of Veterans Affairs]. You hear a lot of complaints [about the VA] but, with me, they’ve been real good.
On life after war:
I had six daughters. I raised them myself. Now I have one granddaughter and six grandsons.