One Laredo veteran spent nearly 30 years in the U.S. Army including three tours in Vietnam. He made a career of his military service. Arturo Tijerina had never left Texas before he signed up for the Army. By the time he left he'd visited continents across the globe and even became a Green Beret.
Arturo Tijerina joined the U.S. Army in 1960 and spent that decade on three tours in the jungles of Vietnam as a classified documents handler, paratrooper, and interrogator. "I'm still in awe when I go back and think about what happened to me," he said.
And in the middle of combat he quickly saw how soldiers can develop post traumatic stress disorder. Things got very violent by his last tour.
"By that time we were getting rocketed a lot," he said.
The Viet Cong would attack from the air, from the ground or however they could. "They would go into the camp and have charges and throw them into the foxholes, through the sides," he told us.
He got home from Vietnam with no injuries. At this point it was the early 1970's. As a warrant officer with his tours behind him he embarked on a new journey. "That part of the career became very interesting," he said.
He already knew Spanish and learned multiple other languages including Bulgarian, Czech and some German and headed to Eastern Europe to gather intelligence during the Cold War. "It was overt collection of information. All the truck drivers that came from Poland and Russia would come through, like the bridge here," he said.
Tijerina was an operations officer in Germany. "We had border officers, we had German linguists, and they would work with the Germans and tell them here's the information we're looking for, what's going on in Poland when you see Polish truckers."
And their intelligence gathering was vital to American efforts. He said, "one time we got recognized at the national level because at one time the satellites were inoperable for some reason and our information coming in was what they were using."
And in the 1980's he headed to Central America. By this time he was a green beret. The color of the insignia is proof of where he served. "I spent like six months looking for a smoking gun from Nicaragua to El Salvador, because Ronald Regan thought the Nicaraguans were arming the rebels in El Salvador and they would come though Honduras. So we were conducting special forces operations in Southern Honduras," he told us.
Tijerina eventually left the military in 1986. And says the experience taught him a lot. "People used to think that because I was in the military so long I was I very strict and authoritative individual. It was the exact opposite. I learned to manage people, how to move them and how to motivate them," he said.
And he is thankful for the opportunity to serve. "I'm a happy veteran I went in the Army as a high school drop out, I got mentored. They took care of me, they helped me," he said.
Tijerina earned two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree and ended up becoming an associate dean at LCC. If you'd like to nominate someone as a South Texas Hero, send a message to JUSTIN.EARLEY@KGNS.TV