GEORGE WEST, Texas — A Vietnam veteran continues to pay it forward as he relives memories from decades ago
Nico Medes Flores fought for our country, survived, and came back with a lot of memories. Some of those memories he wishes he could have left behind.
"This is the only American thing that I can associate with,” Flores said as he began to choke up. “So I just enjoyed my cigarette, waited to die, but nothing ever hit me.”
Flores remembers that day as if it were yesterday.
With one of their missions finished, they came out of the jungle and waited on the beach for a chopper.
That chopper would never come.
“And then everything hit,” Flores recalls. “I mean all kinds of artillery, mortars, rockets. They're hitting everything and there's no cover.”
Flores wouldn’t get hit by anything except sand as he watched the flames and thick black smoke nearby.
Flores then realized how quickly things can change in just a few years.
"They send you letters that you got to go sign up and stuff like this and I'd throw them away,” Flores recalls. That is, until a soldier came to the house to speak with his father.
“My dad said, 'Son, what do you plan to do for the rest of your life?' ” he remembers his father asking. “I said, 'I'm going to stay here on the farm and help you.' He said 'No, you're too stupid. You're going to go into the military for the government to take care of you. I said, yes, sir.' ”
And off he went. More than 9,000 miles from home.
"Third Battalion, third Marines, third Marines division,” Flores says with a smile. “333.” The three numbers Flores will never forget. Three tours in Vietnam.
"You never knew where you were because you went up in a helicopter and you came down some other place," he said. "And you don't know anything. And they didn't tell us anything, because if you go captured, we didn't know nothing."
And then he remembers the day he discovered his executive officer dead after an attack.
“I know, in those days, if somebody got killed or wounded, too bad,” Flores recalls. “He took his boots. That was the way it was. Mine were all ripped up. His fit me, and I still got them."
Twenty years later, Flores came home to George West where he built a dojo to teach karate to local kids.
For him and countless other veterans, the war may have ended but the memories never go away.
"You just have to fight your demons inside your head,” Flores says about the events he remembered and those he doesn’t. “That's why. And the demons are bad dreams. You just got to stand up to them.”
When Flores came home 20 years later, we asked him if he felt like he came back a changed man. He quickly replied, “Just as much as anyone else.”