Korean War Legacy Project

Edwin Vargas


Edwin Vargas hails from Lajas, Puerto Rico and served as a Korean War Defense Veteran at the DMZ during the Cold War. He enlisted in the military to follow after his father who was in WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, never expecting to also go to Korea. He describes his first impressions of Korea when he arrived in the 1970s. Unfortunately, his time of service also included a tragic event when two officers were killed trimming the outpost of trees at the DMZ. While serving as commanding officer, he also had to advocate for one of his KATUSAs who was in an accident. He is extremely proud of his service.

Video Clips

First Impressions of Korea

Edwin Vargas gives his first impressions of Korea. He explains that while the hot summers did not bother him, he really struggled with the Cold Winter. While he did not have the chance to interact with many people, he recalls that those he met were very friendly.

Tags: 1976 Poplar Tree Ax Incident,Civilians,Cold winters,Front lines,South Koreans

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Fighting for a KATUSA

Edwin Vargas shares that while he was company commander, he took it upon himself to advocate for his KATUSA when the KATUSA accidentally hit a South Korean soldier with a vehicle. He explains that the soldier was not hurt, but the KATUSA was on the brink of being arrested until he spoke to the commanding officer for the South Korean Regiment. He shares that after the incident, he became very good friends with this commanding officer.

Tags: Fear,Front lines,Pride

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Korean Axe Murder Incident

Edwin Vargas describes the tragic incident that occurred while he was at the DMZ. He shares that during his service, two of his officers were killed while trimming back trees from their outpost view. He describes this event as unfair as they were unarmed and could not retaliate.

Tags: 1976 Poplar Tree Ax Incident,Panmunjeom,North Koreans,South Koreans,Weapons

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Video Transcript

INTERVIEWER: It is February 15, 2016, Lajas, Puerto Rico, especially this is the Lions Club…




I: …in Lajas. 


VE: in Lajas.


I: Yeah, my name is Jongwoo Han, I am the president of Korean War Legacy Foundation, which is mostly about the Korean War veterans memories, their oral interviews and artifacts but because US has stationed after the Korean war…




I: …in the Korean peninsula, so we call those US soldiers who stationed in Korea after the war as a Korea defense veteran, and I think you are the Korea defense veteran.


VE: Yes sir.


I: And that’s why I’m doing this interview with you but at the same time I heard that your father was Korean War veteran.


VE: Yes sir. 


I: This is great to see that, generation after generation has committed to the country…




I: …that you never knew before.


VE: Correct.


I: This is great and it’s my great honor and pleasure to meet you and to be able to listen from you.


VE: Thank you.


I: And I want to thank you for your gracious arrangement for the venue for our interview, the beautiful room and the beautiful outdoor there we’ve been doing for two days.


VE: You’re quite welcome.


I: And I want to thank you. Would you please introduce yourself your name and spell it for the audience?




VE: My name is Edwin E D W I N Vargas V A R G A S.


I: Vargas.


VE: Vargas.


I: Yeah. what is your birthday?


VE: I was born on 19 June 1948.


I: 1948, and where were you born?


VE: Here in Lajas.


I: Ah so this is your hometown.


VE: This is my hometown.


I: Aha, tell me about your parents when you were growing up?


VE: Well, when I was shortly after I was born, I was about 2, 3 years old…




VE: …my father was in the Active Army and he was assigned to B company, 65th infantry, prior to that he had been part of the occupation forces is in Japan, and he’d been there for a little while, had a break in service, came back in regular army, and was assigned to the 65th infantry when he went to Korea. he was there for a while until he was wounded…




VE: …and then he was brought back into to Puerto Rico, but he stayed in the Army until 1969, and he retired in 1969, before that he also went to Vietnam.


I: Wow.


VE: Yes.


I: So, theoretically your father was World War II veteran…




I: And then Korea and Vietnam.


VE: Correct. Yes.


I: Hmm. So did he tell you anything…




I: …about his service in the Korean War.


VE: Well, he told me a number of things but many times he would remember, and I would have to leave the room because he would, you know, it would be a flashback, my mother would take me and my sister out of the room, and then calm him down because he remembered things that really upset him. That I remember, upset him about friends dying…




VE: …friends being killed unnecessarily, orders that he didn’t think were appropriate to follow, but because he was given orders, he had to follow things like that.


I: First of all, what’s his name?


VE: His name is Victor M for Manuel Vargas. Vargas.


I: Vargas. So, when was exactly that he was in Korea?


VE: Well, he was in Korea early 1951…




VE: …and he was evacuated in September or October 1951 when he was wounded with shrapnel.


I: Uh-huh. What was his unit? it was with 65th?


VE: Company B, 65th Infantry.


I: Mhm. what was his specialty?


VE: He was an infantryman, he later became an auto repairman, a mechanic and he had a couple of different in the army, but in Korea he was an infantryman.


I: Do you know where he fought?




VE: Where he fought?


I: Yeah.


VE: I gave some pictures to Noemi…


I: Yeah.


VE: That show Wonsan, that show Seoul, and that show… you saw one of…


I: Yiusong.


VE: Yiusong-ni. 


I: Yiudam-ni


VE: Yiudamni something like that, yeah. He brought back some pictures that he took.


I: Did you say he was in Korea from when?


VE: 1951. 




I: Then it’s not Yiudam-ni. Anyway…


VE: I don’t remember the…


I: How did he got this, I mean, how was wounded?


VE: A shrapnel. 


I: Where? can you explain when and how?


VE: A mortar round went off and he ended up getting wounded in the knee.


I: In the knee.


VE: Yes. 


I: Yeah, so he was evacuated from?


VE: He was evacuated, he came back to Puerto Rico and then continued in the Army…




VE: …because I remember going after that to Panama, to Massachusetts, to Germany, back to the states to New Jersey, to South Carolina and then he went to Vietnam, so we came back to Puerto Rico.


I: Whoa, did he get the Purple Heart?


VE: Yes, he did.


I: Yeah, when your father was in Korea you’ree not born right?


VE: I was born I was 2, 3 years old, yes…




VE: …I was born before that, yes.


I: Ok, do you remember anything that you heard from your father through letters or anything?


VE: No, no, he would write letters to my mother, but I was so small…


I: Yeah.


VE: I don’t…


I: Did your mom ever tell you about any stories?


VE: No.


I: No. How did your mom actually were able to support you guys…




I: …while your father was in Korea?


VE: He would send money home, plus my mom’s family, and his family would help.


I: Mhm.


VE: Yes.


I: Ok. Looking back all those years, your father service in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam had you ever thought that you go to Korea and serve there?


VE: No, I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps, but I didn’t think that would ever be sent to Korea.




I: Right.


VE: And my father gave me some very good advice before I joined the Army, first he told me go ahead, go as an officer…


I: Uh-huh 


VE: Do not go as a soldier, life for soldier is not, you know, it sucks… second, he told me don’t ever ask a soldier of yours to do something you cannot do, if you want to have to do something make sure you can do it, and he will follow you anywhere, 




VE: …and it helped me a lot in the army, it helped me a lot.


I: Yeah absolutely. And some of them they didn’t want to join army because it’s really, really difficult so they’re rather they want to be in the air or in the sea.


VE: Correct, correct, correct.


I: Did you know anything about Korea?


VE: No, not until I went there.


I: That means that your father didn’t tell you anything about Korea.


VE: Not about the country, no.


I: Not about the country,


VE: What he told me was that it was a wasteland…




VE: …no trees, when he left so was in wreck, was a wreck, you know, it was in ruins. When I went Seoul, I went in 75 and 76, Seoul had grown up a lot, traffic was horrible I was in Tandushan, on with the 2nd Infantry Division.


I: Yeah.


VE: From there I was sent to Camp Casey, and Camp Liberty Bell…




VE: …in the DMZ, and that’s what I had the opportunity to command the company.


I: Hmm.


VE: In the DMZ.


I: When your father began to talk about his experience during the war, he was really got upset right?


VE: He would yes, he remembered good friends that he lost.


I: It wasn’t even do go dream, right/


VE: No, no, no.


I: It was real time.


VE: And he didn’t, he didn’t like to talk about it, but people would ask him and then he talked about it…




VE: …and sometimes he would get, you know, he would get up upset.


I: Automatically.


VE: Yes, yes.


I: Wow did your father had PTSD?


VE: I think he did.


I: Yeah.


VE: He never submitted paperwork for that, but I saw evidence that he did, yes, I now I recognize…


I: Yeah.


VE: …that it was PTSD.


I: Yeah.


VE: When I was a child, I didn’t.


I: So, you must be afraid of him at the time that when he was getting upset right?


VE: Oh yes very scared.


I: Yeah.




VE: Very scared because I didn’t know who he was.


I: That is the scar of the war.


VE: Yes.


I: Yeah.


VE: Yes.


I: So, tell me about the school you went through?


VE: Well, I went to school in Mayaguez, I also took ROTC, I was commissioned in 1972. 


I: So, you become an officer.


VE: When I was an officer. 


I: You are philia boy to your father.


VE: Yes. 


I: To listen to you father.


VE: I listened to my father he also told me…




VE: …not to go infantry, but I wanted to follow in his footsteps, so I went infantry.


I: Bad boy.


VE: Yeah.


I: So, what university were you in?


VE: I was in the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez campus.


I: Hmm. What did you study?


VE: Well, I started studying engineering, but I had a hard time with calculus and then the army said: “you need to graduate sooner we’re going to take you away” so I changed to arts to English and i graduated.




I: I hate calculus too. I don’t like, I mean I don’t use calculus now, right? I never been using that for how many years.


VE: That’s the way it is.


I: You know, 30 years why do I learn? Anyway, so, after you graduate as ROTC, what did you do? Where did you go?


VE: Okay, I went to the basic infantry officer course in Fort Benning. I was assigned, I went to Airborne School I was assigned to Fort Jackson for two years…




VE: …after that I went to the Ranger course, and immediately after that to Korea.


I: Wow, So you are airborne?


VE: Airborne Ranger.


I: 105?


VE: No, no, the only airborne unit I went to, was a special operations command in Fort Bragg, first SO CAM, I was in ASIAP battalion, psychological operations.


I: You know, whenever I see the soldiers jumping from the tower to train themselves as a parachuting, I feel horrible because I have a fear…




I: …in height, you didn’t have that.


VE: I had a fair height but once you do it you like it.


I: Oh really?


VE: I loved it, I loved it, yes.


I: Oh, my goodness.


VE: I didn’t like heights, but I love jumping out of an airplane.


I: So, and then immediately you went to Korea, 75?


VE: I went to Korean 75; I was a platoon leader for a few months, an executive officer from few months, we moved to the DMZ for the last six, seven months of my tour…




VE: …and there I was given a company command.


I: Did you get any instructions about Korea before you left for Korea?


VE: No.


I: No?


VE: No, I learned from Korea, I learned about Korea from my father, the little that he told me before I went was, that Korea is a very poor country, he told me, I didn’t believe him, but he told me: “you’re not going to see any trees” and I didn’t see any trees or very few, and…




I: Even 75?


VE: Even in 75.


I: No.


VE: In the area I was in, shrubs.


I: Yeah.


VE: No trees.


I: Really?


VE: No trees, I understand that has changed now.


I: Oh, absolutely we are the one of the most successful country that transformed from nothing to the green forestry.


VE: I believe that.


I: Yeah.


VE: I believe that.


I: So, what else did he say to you about Korea?


VE: Ah, that was basically it, yeah, basically it, he basically told me take care of your soldiers and you’ll do good.




I: How come US Army did not instruct you about the country that you are had?


VE: When I left for Jackson, I left… when I left for Jackson I made a deal the officer who followed my career, I said: “I can’t be here, I’m an infantry officer, I need to go to a unit”, and he said: “well if you want to go to a unit we can send you to Korea” and I said: “okay so me to Ranger School, then senator Korea”…




VE: …it was just one after the other, no packet, you know, no information packet in my case, no information packet that told me about Korea.


I: Were you married at the time?


VE: Yes, I was.


I: Ahh. then your wife left here…


VE: She stayed here.


I: Stayed here.


VE: She stayed here, yes.


I: Must be hard for you?


VE: Well, it was hard, yes, but I needed to do that, I thought for my career.


I: Hmm…




I: …So did you take a flight, right?


VE: A flight to Japan…


I: Uh-huh.


VE: …stay overnight, and the next day to Korea .


I: Where did you arrive?


VE: Oh, at the International Airport I don’t…


I: Kimpo.


VE: Kimpo Airport. There you go.


I: Yeah, yeah.


VE: There you go.


I: Tell me about the first scene of the Korea?


VE: Well, Korea is very cold, very, very cold, I’m not used to the cold…




VE: …So I had to get used to that, the summers they were very hot but they didn’t bother me, the people very, very friendly, I was in the DMZ, I’m sorry I was in first at Tado-san and then at the DMZ, so I didn’t have much of an opportunity to go off- post, and mix with the people but the few times that I did they were very friendly, they were very helpful, lots of vegetables…




VE: …everywhere, lots of vegetables, that’s what I remember most.


I: Yeah. So, in a frontline DMZ what did you do? tell me about details and what was your routine and were there any dangerous moment?


VE: Well, we would go out on patrols, I went on three patrols in the DMZ. one of them was overnight but most of the time it was training, training within the compound…




VE: …for an eventualities. and as it happens, we had two officers who were from Panmunjom, who were killed while I was assigned to the DMZ, a lieutenant and a captain who were later posthumously promoted to captain and major, they went to trim a poplar tree and they were…


I: In a DMZ?


VE: In the DMZ, inside the DMZ…


I: To clear the vision.




VE: To clear an O-post view.


I: View.


VE: And as they were doing that they were attacked by a group of North Koreans, who axed them to death, the officers were armed but they had no ammunition in their weapon. 


I: Oh, no ammunition.


VE: No, they could not, the ammunition with in an ammo box, ammo box was locked, you had to unlock the ammo box, pull out the ammunition, load your weapon…




VE: …and then defend yourself, not very safe, and so, they had, they didn’t have a chance, they did not have a chance, we were… our battalion was on alert for six weeks, two of our companies or one company went in, with another in reserve, to clear the area with a special forces Korean unit and tear down the tree, they tore down the tree and the North Koreans disappeared…




VE: …for three days, they just disappeared, we left and after three days they came back.


I: I know about that story, I know about that’s horrible incidents because I was around teenager…


VE: You were a teenager.


I: …and I we all really, really, got angry about the inhuman act, you know, North Korean actions, and what… I mean, what did you…




I: …feel when you hear about it?


VE: Oh, horror, we felt pain for the family because the two officers had died, and we felt that there was no sense of fair play, on behalf of the North Koreans, and of course, you know, that’s the way it is, there is no sense of fair play, in my view still today on the North Korean side.


I: You couldn’t retaliate right?


VE: No, the rules of engagement were very, very strict…




VE: …that’s why those officers had 45, but no ammo.


I: No ammo.


VE: No ammo.


I: And I think the level was really highest and the South Koreans were ready to attack them, but what happened?


VE: I’m sorry…


I: The South Korean army was really militated…


VE: Oh no, no, we wouldn’t let them, we would not let them retaliate, the United States would not let the South Koreans retaliate.




I: Because they might instigate…  


VE: They might instigate another… you know, reactivate the conflict and then, you know, maybe draw China and again, and he will all over again.


I: Any other incident that you had?


VE: I’d like to tell you a story.


I: Yeah.


VE: Well, I was company commander one of my lieutenants went out on a drive, with a KATUSA, the KATUSA was the driver, the vehicle…




VE: …hit a South Korean soldier, hurt him, he didn’t injure him badly but hurt him, the Korean stop the Jeep, the took my driver, the Korean driver out of the vehicle…


I: Oh, you were there?


VE: No, I was not there, one of my lieutenants was there.


I: Oh, ok.


VE: They took the driver out and they arrested him, the lieutenant got in the Jeep, he went over to me, and he said: “look at what happened, KATUSA so-and-so is now under arrest”




VE: …in the…


I: Oh, the driver was KATUSA,


VE: He was a KATUSA, the driver was KATUSA, so he’s one of my soldiers, my soldier, is my soldier I take care of them. I got on the Jeep with my driver went to visit the South Korean company commander, also a lieutenant, he was also a lieutenant and we had, you know, we had a little bit of…


I: Were you first lieutenant?


VE: I was a first lieutenant.


I: Okay.




VE: We had a few words and he said: “I am not giving you your KATUSA, he hurt one of my soldiers and he is staying here, he is under arrest” and I said okay: “I’m not leaving here without my KATUSA, and I’m going to go outside, I’m going to get on the radio, I’m going to call my commanding general, and I’m going to tell him to call your commanding general to explain, you know, that he needs to let the KATUSA go”, and the lieutenant said: “wait”…




VE: …and he went back to the room and he came back out with my KATUSA, and he gave him back to me, now we didn’t hit it off very good the lieutenant, I but after that we became very good friends…


I: Ahh.


VE: Very good friends to the point where, when I left Korea, he gave me a commander’s baton.


I: Uh-huh.


VE: That they walk around with and I still have it to this day in my house, very good friends.


I: Mhm.


VE: And that KATUSA was so happy.


I: I know.


VE: He was so, so happy… 




I: Yeah, I know, 


VE: …that I had pulled him out of it.


I: I have many friends were in KATUSA, still there are KATUSA, my seniors been in KATUSA so, I went to the barracks in Yongsan, you know 8th army bearers of KATUSA, I went to the bases I had offices club and so on, my father was Air Force general.


VE: Oh.


I: To stars general, he retired as a superintendent of Korean Air Force Academy.


VE: Korean Force Academy.




I: And he was in charge of Tegu, the whole Air Base, phantom F4 D. 


VE: F4. 


I: So, we used to go to officers club and, you know, at the time in 1980s, you know, it was a trip to be, you know, to be in the officer’s club and eating having New York Strip, you know.


VE: Well, the officer’s club in the DMZ was very small, and we didn’t get much of an opportunity…




VE: …to go there because we were so busy, but during that incident for example, we were on alert for six weeks, the division stood down after three weeks, but we were still on alert for three weeks after that.


I: Yeah. What did you think about your service when you were in DMZ. DMZ, I’ve been there many times, it’s horrible place but it’s so quiet,  it’s a heaven for the animals, what did you think about it?


VE: I loved it, I loved it, finally I was following…




VE: …in my father’s footsteps, not doing the same thing but I was where my father had been, and the description that he gave me, of mountains with no trees, you know, it was still true, you know, back then, it may be different now but it was still true back then, so, the only bad thing about Korea for me was I was away from my family.


I: Yeah, must be hard?


VE: Yeah.


I: So how was life…




I: …you know, overall life, not in terms of military but you know where you sleep what did you do?


VE: You know, it was pretty comfortable, we had our own you know barracks for the officers and it was pretty comfortable.




VE: Yes, similar to a BOQ.


I: Yeah, BOQ. What about food?


VE: Very good, yes.


I: Yeah, right?


VE: Very good, yeah, I learned…




VE: …Kagogi, Pegogi


I: Yeah, yeah, yeah.


VE: I learned to eat that, I loved it.  


I: Oh really?


VE: I loved it, loved it, loved it. I can tell you another story.


I: Yeah. 


VE: I came to Puerto Rico on emergency leave, and one of my sisters-in-law invited me to eat in a restaurant, what we call “empanadillas” and I ate at the restaurant, it was good and she says: “what did you think of the food?” and I said: “the food was delicious, the empanada were delicious…




VE: …but we ate dog.


I: Ahh.


VE: And she says: “no you didn’t, no you didn’t, we don’t do that here”, I said: “I’ve been there before I know what it’s like and we ate dog there”, two weeks later El Imparcial, the newspaper they closed the restaurant oh because they were selling food that involved dog meat. 


I: Really?


VE: Really, and then…


I: You are able to tell…


VE: I was able to tell…


I: …the taste of the meat…  


VE: Yes.


I: …and they were selling here the dog.




VE: They were selling dog meat, and then my sister-in-law believe me, never went back.


I: Wow…you are…


VE: I never went back to the restaurant.


I: All right, you know, it’s a cultural thing, you know, that they ate it, but anyway. So…


VE: What was the kimchi, for me very difficult.


I: Yeah.


VE: So hot.


I: Yeah.


VE: That was very difficult for me, but the Kegogi or Pegogi…


I: Next time I come here at Puerto Rico, I will have a training session…




I: …of kimchi, so that you guys can adjust to it.


VE: Okay.


I: We cannot live with our kimchi even a day, I’m missing this, really badly now, anyway how much were you paid there’s a first lieutenant in 75-76?


VE: I do not remember I’ll give you an example, when I went into the army, as a second lieutenant I had two thousand dollars in my bank, because I worked…




VE: …during the summers and things, by the time I became a first lieutenant I had five hundred dollars in the bank, so it wasn’t much, there’s not much. Now after I became a first lieutenant and with three years in service, then I was able to put money back in the bank, but the first couple of years were very difficult.


I: You send the money back to your wife?


VE: No, she was weeps me, except when I was in Korea.


I: No, no, I’m talking about when you were in Korea.


VE: Yes, yes, she would get a check every month.




I: Uh-huh.


VE: Yes.


I: Right, it’s just like your father send the money to your mother when you were child.


VE: When I was a child. 


I: Hmm.


VE: So, history repeats itself.


I: Exactly, generation after generation.


VE: Yes. 


I: From Vargas’s family.


VE: Yes.


I: Oh, that’s very nice, were you able to travel around Korea?


VE: No, I was able to go…




VE: …on missions around Korea, for example, to protect a missile site but really travel no the only time I traveled was away from Korea to come to Puerto Rico.


I: Mm-hmm.


VE: And then go back.


I: Go back, and have you been back to Korea?


VE: No.


I: No? Do you know anything happening after…




I: …you left in Korea.


VE: Well, I know that there’s trees everywhere, I know that there’s a subway now, there was not when I was there, I know that most of the most of the roads… I know that when I traveled for example from Camp Casey or from the DMZ to Seoul it was a dirt road, and I understand now it’s a highway.


I: Absolutely.


VE: Now it’s a highway, there’s cars everywhere and back then there were only cars…




VE: …basically, in Seoul, you know, you didn’t see many vehicles north of Seoul, except for military vehicles, but I’d love to see Korea again.


I: Yeah.


VE: I’m sure I would not recognize it.


I: Korea is now 11th largest economy in the world.


VE: I believe that.


I: It’s a little bit bigger than Indiana state, we don’t have drop of oil, we have nothing in terms of natural resources because most of them are in North Korea.




VE: But you have very productive people.


I: Thank you.


VE: Very productive people.


I: We put the value of education up there, instead of education, education, education, and that all matters, that’s the only way that the Korean people can, you know, upgrade their status and it’s a long tradition.


VE: And I believe you now have a very large middle class?


I: We have a middle class yeah.


VE: Pretty large middle class.


I: Yeah, yeah…




I: …but these days every middle class in every country squeeze.


VE: Yes, it been squeeze.


I: So, and we are the largest shipbuilder in the world.


VE: And you’re also a powerful auto maker now, that’s admirable. 


I: And do you know why I’m brag about it? I’m not bragging, I’m just pointing you about those facts, and the reason is because, your father protected us…




I: …from the Communists attack in 1950, right?


VE: 51.


I: Yeah. I mean I’m talking about the Korean War, and you came after him and you continue to serve US military, but it was for the safety of Korean.


VE: Yes. 


I: That’s why we were able to build our nation so strong.


VE: Well, I’m glad to have been a part of that.




I: Yeah, and I want to thank you.


VE: Thank you.


I: You know, “en nombre de Corea Gracias por todo”. 


VE: Gracias 


I: Really, I mean it, and Korean government is running revisit Korea program, they’re inviting Korean War veterans back to Korea to show what’s been accomplished after they left it’s a radically different transformation.


VE: Yes.


I: There was nothing vertically standing…




I: …that’s what your father meant that there was not much tree, nothing vertically standing, it flattened out, we were already poor but God poorer, because we were completely destroyed, and 70s the picture that you remember in 70s and 2000 now is…


VE: Completely different.


I: Yeah.


VE: Yes.


I: And that is the legacy of your father and the legacy of the Korea defense veterans like you.


VE: Thank you.




I: So, I want to really, you know other soldiers who went to Korea after the war, right from here, right?


VE: Yes, yes.


I: I want to form an organization, I want to form an organization, I want to work with you to form an organization of Korea defense veterans in Puerto Rico.


VE: Okay.


I: Okay? we can do a lot, many different things.


VE: Okay.


I: So, let’s keep in touch.





I: Please tell me about this place, Lions Club.


VE: The Lions Club.


I: Yeah.


VE: This Lions Club was founded in 1959. 


I: Uh-huh.


VE: Initially, you had to be married to be a member of the club.


I: Married.


VE: Yes, if you were not married…


I: Why?


VE: That’s what the rule was if you were not married…


I: All Lions Club.


VE: I’m sure All Lions Club, but I know this one. We had our first…




VE: …female lion initiated in the year 2204. 


I: Uh huh.


VE: And now we have in this Lions Club about… better than one-third of the members are our ladies, are females 


I: Really?


VE: Yes.


I: Should…


VE: Very, very productive individuals.


I: What did you do?


VE: Well, we serve the community, we…


I: For example?


VE: We visit neighborhoods that…




VE: …need help with building, with housing, maybe helping to construct a part of a wall or something like that, we also contribute every year for AID programs, the Lions have a very well-known foundation, that is used to help people restore their site, we help during catastrophes…




VE: …by providing food, water, clothing, bedding, anything that can be construction material that can be used to help the communities that are ravaged, and I’d like to make a comment about that, when some years ago, six, seven years ago, I’m not sure exactly how many there was a very strong earthquake in China.


I: Uh-huh.


VE: Okay and the Chinese do not permit anybody to go in…




VE: …they permit the Lions to go in and help. The Lions have only one thing in mind and that is to help, to serve, we are the lions not going to find information or to make money, they go there to serve, they bring money, we say that we have to have money to be a Lion because we pay to serve.


I: It’s a membership?


VE: Yes.


I: And it was founded in 1953.


VE: This one was founded in 1953, I’m sorry, yes.




I: And you were the president.


VE: I was a president.


I: When?


VE: In 2009 and 2010


I: Very nice. I really appreciating your arrangements to provide us the venue and all other arrangements.


VE: You quite welcome.


I: It’s wonderful.


VE: For us it’s an honor that, first that you use the facility, also as a veteran, that you talk to our veterans and let them know what their…




VE: …experiences were during the Korean conflict, they’re dying away, you know, that generation is there’s very few left, and their voice needs to be heard. And I admire what you’re doing, because what you’re doing will teach the younger generations of Koreans, especially never, never to forget that their country is a powerhouse, not because of their own efforts, but because of efforts of Americans…




VE: …Puerto Ricans, Colombians, and other nations that help to provide that security.


I: Absolutely, that’s why we are doing this. And one other thing that my foundation is doing is to invite history and social studies teachers to a conference, my foundation hosts annual conference for teachers, and let them know about these interviews, okay? So that they can go back to their classroom and teach…




I: …their own students using this interviews.


VE: Outstanding.


I: You know, for example, if somebody wants to use this interview, they are free to use it and when they use this one, they will talk about Vargas family from Lajas Puerto Rico, and the commitment from his father and to his son, that’s a wonderful example of the patriotism that the Puerto Ricans have over the wars. Right?




VE: Yes sir.


I: So, I think it’s very useful, this year we’re going to have a conference in Orlando Florida, I will send you, do you have email?


VE: Yes sir.


I: Yes, you told me right?


VE: Yes.


I: Yeah, I will send you a flyer and if you recommend any teacher who might be interested in doing this, okay? They should have an interest in it, then let me know, then I will invite them, and they are free everything free even airfare…




I: …hotel, meals, everything will be free.


VE: Outstanding.


I: Okay? 


VE: Okay.


I: So, I want to see we all good representation of the teachers from Puerto Rico, you know what? in some sense Puerto Ricans in Koreans share the same sentiments of being ignored, being attacked, being not treated fairly…




I: …you know, Korea has been attacked thousand times, we have a history of recording 1000 wars in our overall 5,000 years of history.


VE: Wow.


I: We never attack other people but we were in the middle of that Peninsula that linking Japan to China and Russia, everybody wants to have our peninsula.


VE: Yes.


I: In their sphere of influence. So, that’s why US is still there, because it’s strategically…




I: …critical locations, it’s a springboard to the continent, and if you have a Korean peninsula, you can have pacific ocean as your lake.


VE: Yes.


I: Yeah. Any other message that you want to leave to this interview about your father and your service in Korea?


VE: Well, I can say I’d like to say that I’m very proud of my father service, he lost a lot of good friends in Korea and…




VE: …he never forgot them, and he never forgot his service in Korea, he didn’t like to talk about it but most soldiers, like that, when they’ve been in combat they don’t like to talk about their experience, and when they do sometimes it affects them, and I was very, very proud of my father service, he was so proud of his service in Korea that, having been part of world war two, and also in Vietnam, on his tombstone the only thing he put was Company B 65th Infantry Korea.




I: Wow, where is he? in the San Juan National Cemetery?


VE: No, he’s here?


I: Do you have a cemetery here?


VE: Yes.


I: It’s not national?


VE: No.


I: Okay.


VE: But he is here.


I: Do you go often?


VE: At least twice a year, at least twice.


I: Could you repeat your father’s name again and the period that he served.


VE: Victor M Vargas and he served 1951.


I: Unit?




VE: Company B 65th Infantry Regiment.


I: I salute him, I salute him, and it’s I’m so glad to meet you and to hear from you about your father, and your service in Korea. On behalf of Korean nation and Korean government I want to thank your father and continuing service of his son.


VE: Thank you.


I: Edwin Vargas 


VE: Edwin Vargas yes.


I: Thank you very much.


VE: Thank you sir.


I: I hope to see you again soon.




VE: Hopefully yes.


[End of Recorded Material]