Rito Rodriguez said it best when he said “There are just certain people who like to be where the action is, and that’s how I am!” The Korean War had just started. Several of his hometown buddies had already gone. These were the buddies that he ran around with back home in New Braunfels, Texas. They were always getting into mischief and just having a good time together. One day he looked up and realized they were all gone, and he knew he had to go as well. Against his mother’s wishes, he joined the Army when he was just shy of his 18th birthday. He trained at Fort Riley, Kansas and then attended the basic airborne course at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was training to become a paratrooper. It was a tough course, but he decided early that he would not fail. He would not quit, no matter what. It was the sound and the power of the engines that lured him. It felt good to him. On one of his first jumps, his chute did not lose air and he found himself being dragged down the road. He just covered his face and held on. But he got the hang of it! It wasn’t long before he got his orders to go to Korea. He was assigned to the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment. He served as a mechanic and didn’t have much more than a can of grease. The motor pool was a canvas and trees. One particular experience stands out in his mind. He was in a convoy when one of the vehicles quit. He was ordered to stay with the vehicle and after several hours, he began to get hungry. He noticed an infantry unit up on a nearby hill and thought about going over to get a C-ration. He knew it was best to stay put so he tried to ignore his hunger pains when all of a sudden, the North Koreans started firing mortars right on that hill. Needless to say, he wasn’t hungry anymore. He knew how close he had come. As unsettling as that was, he said the silence was the worst part of being in the war. When things were silent, he would be truly scared. Rodriguez was one of the fortunate ones. He walked in Korea and he walked out. He returned stateside with an honorable discharge. He has enjoyed a fruitful and productive life. His time in the military is something he treasures. He says it was such a brotherly feeling and that you would see another guy and just know them, even if you didn’t know them. However, his thoughts are always near to those who gave away their lives for their country and for a people they didn’t even know so that they could be free. He keeps a document with a list of his friends’ names from his hometown who were killed in the Korean War. He says that even though it is known as The Forgotten War, he will never forget because his friends died there. That means something to Rito Rodriguez and Rito Rodriguez means something to us.
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Korean War - Key Events
January 12, 1950
In a speech to the National Press Club, U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson outlines a U.S. Pacific defense posture that includes Japan and the Philippines but does not explicitly include Korea. In fact, he states that, “so far as the military security of other areas in the Pacific is concerned, it must be clear that no person can guarantee these areas against military attack.”
These events are taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica