During Hispanic Heritage Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Army Veteran David L. Flores, who served as a reconnaissance patrolman in the Vietnam War.
David L. Flores was born in February 1949 in Santa Ana, California. His family moved to Long Beach shortly after he was born. After graduating high school in June 1967, Flores attended Long Beach City College. Since he did not have enough units for a draft deferment, Flores enlisted in the military. When the recruiter asked what he wanted his role to be, he looked around the room. Spotting a picture of a soldier in the air with a parachute, Flores decided to be a paratrooper.
Flores completed basic training at Fort Ord, California, and later earned his parachute wings at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1968, he flew to Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. He received orders for the 173rd Airborne Brigade, but a sergeant assigned Flores and 11 other men to a long-range reconnaissance patrol team instead. Flores underwent two weeks of training to learn how to work in a six-man reconnaissance team. Their top priority was remaining unseen by the enemy. In an interview for the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, Flores recalled learning quickly that making noise, talking and going to the restroom were not an option. Flores’ main role on the team was to carry and operate the radio.
Flores and his team traveled across Vietnam scouting large areas of the country. They also monitored trails, grabbed enemies and set up ambushes. The team became very close because they did everything together. On Dec. 31, 1968, the team went out on an ambush during a holiday truce. As Flores was walking out of base camp, two explosions went off nearby. The entire area had boobytraps. Flores called for a medical team using the radio and ran to his close friend caught in one of the explosions. Unfortunately, his friend passed away during transport on a helicopter. Flores got in contact with that friend’s family 25 years later and talked about their experiences fighting together, bringing both Flores and the family a sense of closure.
On Sept. 16, 1970, Flores returned home to Long Beach and reenrolled at Long Beach City College. He worked in construction for seven years before getting a job at the Long Beach Fire Department. He was a paramedic for 16 years and a fireman for five years, eventually promoting to captain of the fire department. Flores got married in 1972 and had two children. He retired in 2004 and lived in Long Beach.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Colton Smith
Editor: Julia Pack
Fact checker: Alexys Santiago
Graphic artist: Nicole Barto