Precise figures are not available for Hispanic participation in Vietnam.
Prior to the full-scale escalation of the Vietnam War, Special Forces Advisor, Sergeant First Class Isaac Camacho's fire base was overrun by Viet Cong in November 1963. After an intense firefight, Camacho was taken prisoner. He is most likely the first Hispanic POW of the Vietnam era. Remarkably, Camacho escaped his captors after 20 months and made his way to freedom. He was awarded the Silver and Bronze Stars in September 1965 and later promoted to Captain, U.S. Army.
Lieutenant Commander Everett Alvarez, Jr. (then Lieutenant JG) was the first American pilot taken as a prisoner of war and remained a prisoner longer than anyone else, eight and a half years.
On April 30, 1975, Master Sergeant Juan J. Valdez climbed aboard the last U.S. helicopter to depart the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. The U.S. presence in Vietnam, which spanned 18 years, ended. Valdez' presence gave credence to the Hispanic theme of participation in America's wars: "First in...last to leave." The Post-Vietnam Era
Approximately 80,000 Hispanics served in the Vietnam theater of operations and 13 won the Medal of Honor, 6 of them Marines. This is not unusual. Hispanics have received the highest honors to date in the U.S. Navy. As of 1990, six ships and three active submarines have been named for Hispanics, including the nuclear- powered 688 class fast attack submarine, USS San Juan, named after the capital city of Puerto Rico. Admiral Horacio Rivera became the first Hispanic four-star Admiral in 1979 and ultimately served as Vice Chief of Naval Operations. Between 1979-1980, Edward Hidalgo held the highly esteemed and powerful position of Secretary of the Navy. During Hidalgo's tenure, millions of dollars were committed to television advertising campaigns and new recruiting techniques to attract Hispanic youth to the Navy.
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