New Mexico & the Vietnam War:
Portrait of a Generation



Edited interview transcript

(Note: this is the full transcript of the Baca interview, edited only for readability)

Well I just graduated from high school. My Dad had a farm and he had us working all the time. Pretty much for the board and meals. I visited with an uncle living in Santa Fe who was in the Navy. He told me, "Well, why don't you join the Navy and see the world?" I really hadn't given it much thought. All I knew is that I had to get out from the ranch and have my own world, my own thing going.

I joined. I guess I really wasn't paying attention or I can't recall that there was a war going on at that time. After basic training, my orders were to report to San Diego to a destroyer. About ten days later we're going to Westpac. They never really said Vietnam 'till I finally asked one of my buddies. I just figured well okay that's, that's where they want me, and I'll serve my time.

"It was exciting, in a way. But, at the same time you're scared for your life."

The Navy was a place where I could get away, didn't have to worry about getting fed or a roof over my head. It was a totally new experience. It was all real, especially when we started firing the 5-inch guns. I was assigned to a mount 51 LSAT, the powder loader, mount 51, so I had firsthand experience with those guns going off. It was exciting, in a way. But, at the same time you're scared for your life.

Read the rest of Jake's story


Photos by Jake Lopez

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