Mexican-American Vietnam Vet Finally Awarded US Citizenship 53 Years After Serving

October 20, 2020 Updated: October 20, 2020

A Mexican-American Vietnam War veteran was promised U.S. citizenship in return for military service over half a century ago. But the citizenship never materialized, until just recently.

Ruben Sanchez recalled having made it home to Texas after the war and being awarded the Purple Heart for his bravery.

Now, 53 years after the fact, the veteran’s official status as a U.S. citizen has finally been granted.

Sanchez told KVEO-TV that he was just 20 years old when he enlisted. “L.B. Johnson took over and he started drafting the people, the young guys like myself,” he recalled.

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office in Harlingen, Texas (Screenshot/Google Maps)

He joked that he went to Vietnam “for a picnic,” but his Purple Heart testifies to a greater sacrifice.

“They promised, if they go to fight, they were gonna get their citizenship and they lied to them,” he said. Sanchez said that some veterans were even deported back to Mexico after returning from Vietnam.

But on Oct. 16, Sanchez took the oath of allegiance in a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Office in Harlingen, Texas. Besides his long-awaited status, the veteran was recognized with a certificate detailing his wartime service and an American flag from Washington.

Texas veterans’ advocate Mario Ybarra gave the news outlet a little historical context, explaining that there probably wasn’t sufficient support for veterans like Sanchez in applying for citizenship after the war. The process, he admitted, can be “intimidating.”

“But that in itself shouldn’t be a hindrance,” Ybarra added, “because it’s basically just a matter of following good instruction and paying attention to details and having the needed documents for processing.”

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(Illustration – Doug James/Shutterstock)

On Oct. 16, Patrick Roberts, veterans’ outreach director for the office of Texas Democratic representative Vicente Gonzalez, offered words of encouragement for Sanchez.

“I also want to congratulate you for receiving your citizenship today,” he said. “It’s been long overdue, and it’s something that you should have received, and you should have been a citizen long, long before this.”

In his retirement, now a fully fledged American citizen, Sanchez plans to “just behave, be good, keep doing good things.”

Quoting John F. Kennedy, Sanchez recalled the motto that prompted him to serve in the military over half a century ago: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

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