Korean War Legacy Project

David Nevarez


David Nevarez joined the Marine Corps when he was seventeen years old in an effort to see the world in 1982. He found himself stationed in Japan and traveling to Korea to see the Armistice in full effect. He describes the biting cold he felt as a soldier when camped in South Korean fields. He also explains the lingering tension he felt between South Korea and North Korea. David Nevarez describes his appreciation for South Korean culture, drawing parallels to his own Hispanic community. He speaks highly of his service in the Marine Corps where he feels he developed motivational and leadership skills and is proud to have served.

Video Clips

Korea: Taste of the Manchurian Wind

David Nevarez shares that he went to Korea for the first time in 1984 as part of the 3rd Service Support Group headquartered in Okinawa, Japan. He describes setting up camp in Korea. He remembers the temperature drop from 40 degrees to 40 below zero in the span of less than 30 minutes and recounts the cold winds that hit him in the camp. He expresses he then understood what the 1st Marine Division experienced at the Chosin Reservoir during the war and adds that the memory of that level of coldness stays with him to this day.

Tags: 1950 Battle of Chosin Reservoir, 11/27-12/13,Cold winters,Impressions of Korea,Living conditions

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More Observant of the World Around Me

David Nevarez describes his role as a combat support specialist and remembers walking around a South Korean camp with the pressure of North Korea looming. He recounts a time when a South Korean soldier cracked his gun and the shock sending him into a deeper appreciation for the possibility of war with the North. From then on, he describes his readiness to fight and awareness of the world around him.

Tags: Impressions of Korea,North Koreans,Rest and Relaxation (R&R),South Koreans,Weapons

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Impressions of the Korean People

David Nevarez describes his interactions and impressions of Korea. He expounds upon his appreciation of the food as well as the people. He draws comparisons between the Hispanic community and the South Korean people.

Tags: 1950 Pusan Perimeter, 8/4-9/18,Civilians,Food,Impressions of Korea,Orphanage,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript

[Beginning of Transcribed Material]


D:        My name is David Nevarez.  I was born in Dallas, Texas in 1965.  I enlisted in the Marine Corps in September of ’82. I went into Late Entry Program, and I went to boot camp around September 7, 1983.  I was discharged from the Marine Corps Jully 9, 1991 immediately after Desert Storm.



I was serving at the time with 5th Marines, First Marine Division.  Well, I come from a family of nine. I was born in Dallas, was there until ’79.  My parents, my mom and dad are both functionally illiterate.  My dad was a plumber.  He was a World War II vet, and he was a modified cowboy.  He spent some times on the King’s Ranch from what I understand and taught me the trade when I was eight years old.



My mom, she took care of nine of us.  I’m number eight of nine, six sisters, three brothers.  She did it all.  She took care of the house.  She took care of us.  She took care of other people’s clothing or she did their ironing, washing, whatever needed to be done to just earn a little bit of extra money.  Whenever school was out, we suddenly became the gypsies of Texas I would call it, you know, life I’d think about cause we would go pick up, pick cotton,



whatever fruit was growing in South Texas or far Wests Texas.  We’d run around the cotton fields cutting weeds down so the tractors can come in and harvest.  You know, my mom’s day was started at like 4:30 in the morning.  She’d pound out fresh homemade tortillas three times a day, at least four dozen just to feed us.  So, I’m a little bit spoiled in that aspect.



My dad, he was a very hard worker.  Times that I had to work with him were, we’d get up at 5:30, be out the door by 6:00, and be on the job around 7:00, 7:30 and work till about 6:00.  I worked with my dad until I was 17.  By the time I was 17, I was a lead man at Victoria Plumbing Company in Victoria, Texas.  I had about six people under me.  And they were all older


than me.  It was me, my dad, my uncle and my cousin that worked at that company.  And I didn’t receive any preferential treatment.  Right then and there, you know, I had to teach, tell these older folks how to, you know, get the job done.  So, I was immediately placed in a leadership position.  And I think being in the Marine Corps just solidified that, you know.  It made me a leader, a motivator.



Someone that got things done.  My job as a Marine was logistics.  That is taking the Marine and the equipment that they need, any piece of equipment and move it around to where they were at.

I:          So, why did you choose to enlist?
D:        It’s a funny story.  I come from a long line of soldiers. From my grandfather.



My great-grandfather Silas on my mom’s side was in World War I.  My dad was a World War II vet, and my brother was a Viet Nam era vet who just missed going to Viet Nam by one number.  I was in Texas. I seen what the Army did, and I really didn’t want to stay in Germany or Texas.  I wanted to see the world,


and I wanted to, I did not go just as oh my God, I’m in the military, you know. I went in as, with a very open mind and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The way I was recruited was kind of funny because at the time, I was, at the time I met my recruiter, I was too steps into the Navy recruiter’s office, and the Navy recruiter wasn’t there.  So, that’s where I got hooked into the Corps.



I did it and haven’t looked back since.

I:          How old were you?
D:        I was 17. You know, I’ve seen, the economy in Victoria was kind of in a slump.  Haliburton was a guy buying, a company buying the houses and keeping the economy stable.  The work started drying up.  Construction is a very, when it’s banging, it’s banging.  And when it slows down,



it slows down.  Ten-hour, twelve-hour paychecks a week just wasn’t cutting it.  And I blew my scholarship for, in high school.  So, I decided well, you know, let’s go in the Corps and see what I can do.  And my ASVAB was fair, so I went in on a guaranteed contract logistics.  And during my time there, I excelled.



I was put in a very responsible position at a very early age. After boot camp, I was sent to Little Creek, Virginia for my training, my school.  And from there, I went to Etson Range, California which is a part of Marine Corps Recruit Depot.  So, I’m almost at my 19th birthday.  I’m in charge of a platoon of recruits because



during their training cycle, there was a week, a seven-day gap that the recruits were going to be on mess duty which is working in the dining facility or maintenance duty which meant keeping up with the facilities, either at Etson Range or School of Infantry.  So, the platoon that stayed on Etson Range, I was in charge of.  They had to maintain my lawns, sweep the sidewalks, whatever was needed.



On top of me taking care of my rifle ranges. I had four rifle ranges I was responsible for that the recruits were firing on for their qualifications.  I made sure their communications were up, they had enough ammo, maintaining the pistol range.  At that time, all the recruits were familiarizing themselves with the 45.  And after I think a few incidents there, they decided to phase it out.  The only way that we can,



E3 or below could carry a pistol or E5 and below could carry a pistol if they were on our crew serve weapon, the cannon, a tank, an LAV or striker vehicle as I always called it, that type of equipment.

I:          So, when did you go to Korea?

D:        I went to Korea the first time in 1984.  It was during my first tour in Okinawa.  I was part of 34 Service Support Group.



I worked at the Headquarters Element G4 which is the General’s Command.  And I was filling in in a Master Sergeant’s, an E9’s billet as an E3.  I was kind of selected, I would say, because of me accepting the workload and so on, you know.



I really liked what I was doing.  People recognized, certain people in the Command recognized my devotion.  I spent a lot of my nights writing up Operation Orders for Team Spirit 84.  It was a joint exercise with the Korean Marines.  We landed in P’ohang, Korea.



It was a fly-in. I flew in a C141 the first time from Japan to Korea.  And I think my second day there, second or third day there, you know, we had the striker tent, made sure we had a diesel stove, that’s a pot bellowed stove, and the gas can would be, the 55 drum would be between the two tents.  And I got my first taste of that Manchurian wind.


And it went from 40 degrees to 40 below in less than 30 minutes.  And I got a very good understanding of what First Marine Division went through and they were surrounded at the Chosin, you know.  That’s a kind of cold that stays with you for a lifetime.  To this day, on a hot day I remember, I would remember that.  And I’d get goosebumps.  It could be 105 here, and I just remember



how exactly cold I was.  And you know, it would give me goosebumps, you know.  My primary objective as a Combat Support Specialist was again, to support that Marine in the field and support wherever, you know, we had to support with who, whatever they needed.


I got to know some of the Korean Marines which is a very, extremely disciplined group of military people.  And you have to remember there’s just a piece of paper holding the two countries together, apart. If one side decides to blink, the North Korean side’s over on the border, easily within two days they’ll be all the way down



into South Korea, you know.  I didn’t realize, it all came into perspective to me when one night I was out on liberty, you know, grabbing a beer, getting a bath, having my boots shined and uniform pressed, grabbing me something to eat.  And I was coming back one night, and the Korean guard let’s the boat come home on his rifle.


And it made that loud crack, and I was like whoa.  Wait a minute.  I harished it up, I had no weapon.  What am I gonna do if North Korea decides to rattle the saber, and I have no way to defend myself?  It became very real very quick for me and the group of guys I was with.  So, from that point on,



I was more I guess, more observant that things are going on around me.  That’s what I would say.

I:          So, you were based in Japan, and then were you moved to be based in Korea?
D:        It was a temporary assignment.  I’ve been to Korea twice on Team Spirit ’84 and Team Spirit ’88.  The second time was with Third Landing Support Group. I was part of the Beach Import Company.



I was again stationed at Okinawa.  I ran the flight line at Conida Air Force Base for the Army, Navy and Marine aircrafts that came in. I did unit deployments, loading and unloading 747’s simultaneously cause aperture would come in for six months rotation, and they’d fly out.   And then we had to receive the guys coming in, preparing nine pallets of sea bags and whatever,



Throwing it in the plane and getting them going. I loaded out VMA 214, the Black Sheep that got the TV show, unloaded them out and under typhoon condition 1E, loading out their stuff and getting them off the island before the typhoon struck.  Those are the type of things I did.


When I was chosen to go to Korea in ’88, I pretty much did the same thing, had to do a tactical offload off the USS Jupiter.  That evolution was about an 18-hour period more less, you know.  They came out with a tactical load.  When I say tactical load, they come out in a sequence that you would use for more,



your high priority stuff would come off first, and low priority would come up last.  And that’s pretty much the gist of what I did.  And again, you know, I’ve seen, you know, the thing that really sticks out the most to me in Korea is the discipline of the ROK Marines, the generosity of  the civilians out there.



I spent time going to orphanages when I wasn’t doing anything.  I’d go on orphanages, I’d go to orphanage trips, and I’d carry a big pocketful of candies, stuffed animals for the kids.  And you know, I really enjoyed my time, you know.  I tried some really diverse foods. I got to know some really sharp people.  A Korean Marine First Sergeant befriended me on my



second trip there and pretty much invited me into his home, and we had a nice formal dinner, a six-course meal.  It was great.  It was wonderful.  It was an experience.  And here I am hitting 50, and I still haven’t forgotten it.  The South Korean people are very hearty bunch.  They remind me of a lot of my Hispanic roots, you know.  (INAUDIBLE) family.



In service.  I can’t say enough about the Koreans and enjoying my time there.

I:          So, what was going on within the country politically or in society?  What kind of transitions were happening during the time that you returned?
D:        I really wasn’t paying attention to the political side, you know.  My initial focus was just on my job.  And you pretty much



take it as it comes, you know.  There was a guideline should anything happen.  We’d automatically become an offensive force and protect the base that we were stationed out of, you know.  And that was about it.  We would be the force that held the line.

I:          So, what did you do after your time serving in Korea?



D:        After my time in Korea, I went back to, which different time?  I was there twice.  One was just back to my regular duties.  And I was reattached to my unit, FSSG, and ran the Service Corps, Group Headquarters.  I was responsible for five battalions.  In a battalion, there’s about 3,000 Marines per battalion.  We were responsible for all that stuff.  And again, I was at a



very young age in a very highly responsible position.  And I lived up to that.  It was demanding.  My day would start at 4:30, and sometimes it would end at about six or seven at night, depending on the needs, depending on what’s going on.  I ran the Classified Messages Board.  I ran the Classified Message Board for my section.



And I pretty much had my finger on the pulse of everything that was going on at the time.

I:          What kind of life lesson do you feel like you learned through your military service?
D:        Life lesson.  It’s an experience that made me more aware of what’s going on with my life, more situationally aware.  It has every bit of whatever leadership ability I’ve ever



wanted just because I was put in positions at an early age with the right kind of supervision to make me a better leader, a better motivator.  When I was working, I went back to work as a plumber.  Within three months of getting into Colorado Springs, I went back to work as a



plumber. Within three months of me being there, I was getting called by some heavy hitters in the industry wanting me to work for them.  And I owe that to not only what my dad taught me but what the Marine Corps taught me as well.  It gave me that discipline to keep pushing.