Vincent Rios was born in Houston, Texas in 1945. After WWII his family settled in Bryan for several years and then, when Vince was eight, they moved to Fort Worth where, from second grade on he spent his growing up years. He was attending Diamond Hill Junior High School in 1960 when he first met Cheryl, the girl who would become his wife. He liked being on the football team in high school, but Vince describes those times as “tumultuous” and says he was a “high strung” teenager. Among his misadventures he spray painted his school’s initials on a rival team’s bus (Castleberry High) and that got him kicked off the football team and out of school for a week. Nonetheless, Vincent Rios graduated from Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School with the Class of 1964. He enlisted in the Marines shortly after graduation and was soon on his way to San Diego, California.

Arriving in mid-Summer 1964, Vince was one of the seventy recruits of Platoon 375 that went through boot camp at the San Diego Recruit Depot. At the end of the thirteen weeks he was sent to Pendleton Marine Base for advanced individual training in the Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Onofre. Except for a 30-day leave back home during the Christmas holidays he was in intensive training there until March 1965 when he received his first unit assignment. He reported in to Company A, First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, First Marine Division, located at the Pendleton Marine Base, Camp Margarita. But, they did not stay there very long.

In May 1965 they deployed from the United States, beginning Vince’s first combat tour. He says, “Alpha Company sailed from San Diego aboard the troop carrier USS General J.C. Breckinridge bound for Okinawa. After a few weeks training there we set sail from Naha, Okinawa bound for DaNang, Vietnam with a new name, (Company E, Second Battalion, Ninth Marine Regiment, Third Marine Division) aboard the USS Pickaway troop carrier. Neither the Breckinridge nor the Pickaway was a luxury liner.”

During his first assignment in Vietnam, Vince’s unit patrolled in the area around DaNang and conducted some operations further inland, against a Viet Cong enemy that did not often engage. He remembers that Company E sustained very few casualties during his time with them (before transferring to A-1-1 in November), those being mostly minor wounds from small arms fire or from grenades, although he did find himself in some incredibly dangerous situations that even today he describes as vivid memories that will never fade. He completed the tour without injury and rotated back to the United States.

He was among the earliest returnees from Vietnam and was stationed back at Pendleton Marine Base, reporting in for duty in August 1966. He was assigned to the Camp Pendleton Base Brig with duties typical for a prison guard in the confinement facility; sentry duty, duty warden, and correctional custody instructor. At the time, Vince was looking forward to making a career in the Marine Corps and he served two years in that assignment before being ordered back to Vietnam.

Sergeant Vincent Rios arrived back in the Republic of Vietnam in August 1968 and was assigned to his old unit again, Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division near DaNang. In fact, he returned to his original platoon, and became the new Platoon Sergeant. He remained the Platoon Sergeant for the next six months, until his third wound sent him home and put him out of the Marine Corps, and, for most of that time in the absence of an officer he was also the acting Platoon Leader.

His first Purple Heart award was from September 1968 when hit in the left shoulder by small arms fire, a minor wound treated by the Corpsman and Vince needed no further treatment. But, his second wound, hit in the right shoulder, got him sent to the Marble Mountain Hospital and from there to the Cam Ran Bay Hospital for two weeks in early November.

About his third wound, he had this to say, “February 6, 1969, while on a platoon-size patrol in the An Hoa Basin of Vietnam, being the leader of the platoon, I held up the platoon and went forward to talk to the point man to give him instructions and release local civilians who were leading the platoon through their hamlet area. As I did so I triggered a concealed buried landmine. The explosion immediately evaporated both my legs and left my right arm hanging in shreds. My left arm was intact but the end joints of my ring and index fingers were blow off. Only the quick action by the Corpsman with our company and my fellow Marines to patch me up and call a Medevac chopper saved my life.

The helicopter came in and took me to Marble Mountain, from there they took me to DaNang, then I was flown to Japan where I was in three service hospitals, Army, Navy and Air Force. From there the Medevac plane flew into Travis Air Force Base in California and I was transported to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital in Oakland. I was moved from there to the VA Hospital in Los Angeles. I was in six hospitals in five months.

Life went on for me. I healed, recuperated, underwent physical and occupational therapy and was fitted with arm and leg prosthetic devices…Soon I was using a one-arm drive wheelchair, then crutches and driving an automobile with hand controls.”

Vincent Rios earned an Associate Degree at Mesa Junior College in San Diego. He had gone on to complete a B.A. in psychology at San Francisco State University when VA recruiting led him to employment with the Department of Labor. He was a full time D.O.L. employee while earning an M.A. Degree in interdisciplinary social science at San Francisco State University and that was followed by an M.P.A. Degree from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Full time work and study took tremendous determination and focus but Vince stuck with it and later had a long career working with various agencies including Health Education and Welfare, Health and Human Services and the Small Business Administration, before finally retiring from the Department of Labor in 2001. Vince now says, “Fantastic opportunities just fell in my lap after my dedication, determination and incredibly hard work…I’ll live happily ever after, after doing what I always wanted to do: work with fellow veterans…on a multitude of programs benefiting veterans – especially disabled veterans…(now) I am free to spend lots of time with family and friends, especially my Marine friends and attend and sometimes participate in annual patriotic events.”

This month, Chapter 1919 and PATRIOT BULLETIN proudly salute Patriot Vincent “Vince” Rios.