PROFILE OF A MUSEUM VOLUNTEER
Ronald Chavez was born in Monterey Park, California September 24, 1947 to Apolonia and Blas Chavez. His father was a WWII Army veteran who served with the 25th Infantry Division in Guadalcanal. Ronald and his two brothers, Richard and Rodney all served in Vietnam. Ron also had a sister, Rita. Ronald attended Fresno schools, graduating from Fresno High School in 1967.
He joined the US Army December 27, 1967, and took his basic training at Ft. Lewis, Washington. He then trained as a cook at Fort Lee Virginia before getting orders for Vietnam in April, 1968. Ron arrived at Cam Rah Bay, took a C-130 to Bien Hoa Air Base, and arrived in Saigon where he was assigned to the 154th Transportation Company as a cook.
He was under the 1st Logistical command at Long Binh, the sprawling Army Headquarters and supply point on the northern doorsteps of Saigon. He spent the first night in Saigon at the top of the Lyte Hotel, where they could see tanks patrolling the streets below, and hear the bombs from the Sky Raiders dropping on the outskirts of town. Inside the hotel looking back at the bar, soldiers were drinking beer like nothing was happening outside. The Tet offensive of 1968 was still going on May 22nd and Ron was joined with the Counteroffensive Phase VI. His first day at the 154th Transport Company, he pulled guard duty at New Port Terminal; thirty kilometers from Long Binh on an armored personnel carrier. The 71st Transportation Battalion Headquarters supplied New Port with additional men every night through Tet.
It rained that first night, and Ron heard shooting in the distance by the New Port Bridge. Just a few weeks earlier the Viet Cong had blown a part of the bridge. Ron thought of home and his girlfriend Linda a lot; wondering if this was how it was to be the rest of the year. The next day, he was sent back to camp (Camp Camelot), and his duties as a cook. The mess hall was large and they fed around 600 men three meals a day. At first they had only a gas field stove, but were soon changed to a gas stove, grill, oven, and even a deep fat fryer. He worked long hours from 4:00 AM to 1300 hrs. Mail call was at 1600 hrs. and Ron got to know the mail clerk, who also ran movies in the evening pretty well. The war seemed distant now. They did have a few close calls, and Ron was thankful for the training they’d had. One instance in particular, a 122 rocket flew over, exploding just 25 ft. from everyone. He looked to the sky to see dirt falling everywhere, and everyone running all over the place, but Ron was unable to move. His best friend David came back for him; for which he feels ever grateful. He now wishes they had kept in touch after the war. After Vietnam Ron was stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas with 18 months left for his ETS.
Returning home to Fresno, Ron married his childhood sweetheart Linda on June 14, 1969. They were blessed with two daughters, Tina and Debbie, and five grandchildren. After 25 years, Ron retired from the Army Reserve and felt he really did envelop the “Be All You Can Be” Army slogan. He drove trucks, was Platoon Sgt., Retention NCO and Mess Sgt. He earned the National Defense Service Medal, Expert Rifle, Good Conduct Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal w/Device, and Vietnam Service Medal w/4 bronze service stars. In the Reserves he received the US Army Achievement Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. Ron worked for the US Postal Service as a mail carrier and was encouraged by Bob Specht, who was on his route, to come check out the Veterans Memorial Museum. He was impressed with the docents, and with the children who came through. In May, 2013 Ron committed one day a week as a docent and enjoys the camaraderie with the staff and other docents.