Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Air Force Veteran John Aleman, who served as a courier in Asia during the Vietnam War.
John Aleman was born in June 1940 in Waco, Texas. While attending La Vega High School, Aleman and his six siblings faced discrimination as Latinos. He overcame poverty and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Printing and Graphic Art at Sam Houston State University in 1963.
He was one of the few Latinos who attended basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. While in the Air Force, he felt all members were treated equally, both harshly and respectfully. After he completed training, he went to Wichita Falls, Texas for three years. Following this, he married Eugenia Gonzalez.
He then served at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, with his wife joining him one year later. His job as a courier consisted of guarding classified material and equipment. He worked 24-hour shifts but was always on call during his two or three days off. He became friends with the Filipinos on the base and learned about their culture. Aleman and his wife took advantage of the opportunity to travel to nearby countries, including Thailand, Hong Kong and Japan.
While guarding over 2,000 pounds of classified material, a group of more than a dozen young Filipino men approached him on the base. Although he had his gun, he did not have enough ammunition for protection. When the group of Filipino men reacted to him pulling a candy bar out of his pocket, Aleman realized what they wanted. They were hungry. He threw the candy bar to them and they all ran for it. This brought tears to Aleman’s eyes, as these young men thought the classified materials that he was protecting was instead food. He threw all the candy bars he had to this group of men so they could have something to eat.
He served in the Air Force for five years. When he returned home, he faced disrespect from anti-war protestors and discrimination as a Latino that he did not face while in the military.
Aleman stated, “I hope America never changes or forgets the sacrifice made by the entire family of the service person. It is hard on whole families. The support rendered by the families cannot be measured.”
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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: Hannah Nelson
Editor: Rachel Falconer and Kristen Whitehurst
Fact checker: Ormina Naveed
Graphic artist: Katie Rahill