In Black written at the back section of
In the year 1965, the United States sent troops to Vietnam to aid the South Vietnamese against the communist Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. As the fighting increased, the United States was in need of more troops in order to support its commitment to South Vietnam. Therefore, thousands of Selective Service registers were called and drafted. The United States also asked its closes ally the Philippines to help send troops to South Vietnam and in addition this, the United states requested for an increase of recruitment for the United States Navy in the region. Thus, the U.S.
enlisted thousands of Philippine natives, including myself.My involvement started in July of 1968, when I was flown to the United States beginning my military training in San Diego. Recalling the eight weeks of hard, intensive training, I still considered myself fortunate to be enlisted in the United States Navy. Although, when I did graduate boot camp, I cherished the prize of rest and recreation for 72 hours. My short-lived vacation began with a group of my fellow Filipino recruits. We decided to catch a bus to downtown San Diego. As we boarded the bus, I stopped in confusion when I noticed a sign with Black written at the back section of the bus. Looking for the driver for direction, I was informed by the driver that was no longer enforced.
Even with him saying this, I still sat in the middle row since my skin color fell in between black and white.As we arrived downtown, I experience culture shock. The town was colorful and filled with live entertainment. Although, I did want to spend more time exploring the place, my vacation time was up and I had to go back to the base. As our company gathered for the last day, we waited for our next order of job training. I was wondering why Filipino recruits and few African American were separated.
Having the same order to attend SD A school (Steward), we are not aware that our General Classification Test was high enough to be qualified in other ratings. This discrimination was puzzling to me since, the Americans I knew back in the Philippines were good people and America itself is known to be the land of opportunity.Despite this slight discrimination, I had accepted my rate and still considered American as good people of good will. My very first day in steward school was a terrible and memorable one. I was punished to stand all day for laughing at my superior when he stood on a podium with a loud harsh voice saying, these are your tools and in four weeks you will learn how to use them. Looking at his left arm, all I saw were utensils: kitchen fork, knife and spoon.
I laughed in disbelief that I joined the Navy to cook. However, I accepted the job, as if I had another choice, assuming every recruit started out as a cook. As the man said, in four weeks I learned how to use them, I became a designated Navy Steward. Upon graduation, my orders were to board a ship leaving for Vietnam, the USS LONG BEACH CGN-9, the first nuclear surface ship of the United States Navy. I was assigned to a division of 10 Black Americans, 29 Filipinos and 1 Caucasian the division officer. The officers of that ship lived like kings, we served them breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In between meals, we worked in their staterooms, dressing their beds with clean sheets and towels, shining their shoes, cleaning their rooms and doing their laundry. This was the daily routine of a steward job aboard ship.After our first six months in Vietnam, we were sent back in the States. My plan was to escape such slave-like job. So, I enrolled in Long Beach City College to further my education and hoped that someday the U S Navy will change its policy toward Filipino servicemen regarding their job assignments. It was my third month in school when all Navy ships in the Long Beach area were in the state of emergency and pulled out enroute to the Token Gulf.
Our ship, powered by