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PuertoRicoWOW News Service
Vietnam War Veteran Celebrates Life
Melissa B. Gonzalez
April 1, 2001
Carlos Diaz, 52, is a fighter, not because he has endured the horrors of war or overcome the loss of his legs in Vietnam, but because in all his years, making the most out of life's circumstances has been his mission and, according to him, his true source for survival.
Puerto Rican Vietnam Veterans' Day was celebrated Friday, and Diaz, who lost his legs due to a landmine, said he holds no grudge on life or the government for having to bear the mark of war. For Diaz, Vietnam only helped to make him a better human being and more able to be of service to his family and society.
"Losing my legs has not left emotional scars in my life. When I returned home, I was so loved by my family and friends, that I was able to accept it as another step in my life," he said.
Diaz works as a benefits counselor at the Veterans Department since 1978. He was able to complete a bachelor's degree in social sciences at the University of Puerto Rico through the department's rehabilitation program. To this date, his job has been a source of great satisfaction in his life.
"My greatest joy is being able to help my family with my income and my work," said Diaz, the eldest of 11 brothers and sisters who are acquainted with the hardships of dealing with limited economic resources.
Diaz said working as a counselor for other veterans has been very fulfilling for him as well. But despite his good disposition and willingness to make the most out of what he has in life, Diaz said if he would have had the choice, he would have preferred not to go to Vietnam.
Carlos Diaz, who lost his legs due to a landmine, celebrated Puerto Rican Vietnam Veterans' Day Friday and said he holds no grudge on life or the government for having to bear the mark of war.
"War is not worth the life of any human being, and conflicts should always be solved among the parties involved and in the countries of origin without the intervention of foreign governments," Diaz said.
Admitting he's an exception to the rule, he described himself as a healthy person whose deeply seeded love for life and God, taught by his family, has helped him maintain his mental well being.
"I'm not a typical veteran. I have many comrades that are still bearing emotional scars due to that war," said Diaz, who added that the proclamation of March 30 as a commemorative day was a much-needed gesture to acknowledge the courage of those who had no choice but to fight in Vietnam.
"I don't regret having gone to the war. Those were the circumstances of the time, and I had to go through them. At age 20, I had to fight a senseless war, but I made the most of it without going beyond what was necessary to survive at the time," Diaz said.
According to statistics from the Veterans of Foreign War Magazine, 9.08 million military personnel served on active duty during the Vietnam War from 1964 to 1975. Out of that number, approximately 170,000 were Hispanics.
Over 24,000 Puerto Rican men fought in Vietnam, and more than 500 of them died in battle, according to San Juan Vet Center Team Leader Eduino Rivera. In comparison, more than 55,000 U.S. men died.
As of today, there are 8,121 Vietnam War veteran beneficiaries in Puerto Rico, according to Veterans Department Public Affairs Officer Jose Cruz Roman. He said 6,699 or 82.4% of them receive compensation for physical or mental conditions related to their time served in the military, whereas 1,422 or 17.5% receive pensions according to their financial needs.
Compensation pay ranges from $101 to $2,107 a month, depending on the severity of the veteran's condition, and pensions go from $1 to $777 a month, depending on the veteran's financial situation. However, Cruz Roman said these benefits increase with each dependent a veteran may have.
For more information on benefits, call (787) 772-7370.