For the first time Central Valley Honor Flight dedicated its 19th trip to Vietnam Veterans. Almost all of them actively fought in Vietnam during the war.
So, when the men toured the Vietnam War Memorial it held a greater significance. Because for a lot of these Veterans, they personally knew the names engraved on the wall.
Luis Torres is from Reedley California and when he walked past the thousands and thousands of names he said he was determined to find his best friends name on that wall.
Torres said he can recall the last encounters he had with his friend in Vietnam.
“Maybe I should have gone with him,” said Torres. “I don’t know in 1967 he got killed,”
Torres grew up in Reedley with his good friend Tony Gabaldon. Both were drafted and deployed to Vietnam in the late 1960’s only one came home.
“Then we came by a little hill and we saw something out there,” said Torres. “I told my friend there is somebody out there and we just looked at each other and we took off running.”
Now, 50 years later, Torres is shading his name on this piece of paper to keep alive his memory and honor his service.
Terry Rommereim is a counselor who came on this Honor Flight. He said losing a comrade while serving can cause a lot of pain.
“It’s like losing a family member,” said Rommereim. “You know actually in some ways they even come closer to their comrades in the service because of what they had to do.”
Rommereim said stories like these are very common and some Veterans hold their guilt for years.
“They are all in that together so they become family,” said Rommereim. “So, when they have lost one of those what they call family members, friends, it affects them for the rest of their lives.”
Torres said he will keep this sketch close to him and can go back home to Reedley with more closure after paying tribute to his old friend.