Vietnam Vet Serves In Iraq
(December 20, 2009)
Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Viriato B. Sena stands before his
Marines at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, Oct. 13, 2009. Sena, who joined the Marine
Corps in 1973, participated in the evacuation of Vietnam and is now deployed to
Iraq for the drawdown of U.S. forces there.
||AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq, Dec. 16, 2009 – From the battle at
Belleau Wood, where Marines earned the name “Devil Dog,” to
the iconic image of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima, Marine
Corps history is embedded in every Marine from initial
training at boot camp, and it continues to provide
inspiration to those who serve.
Some veterans of past wars not only hold on to the memories
of their service, but also are making new ones while they
serve in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Viriato B. Sena, first sergeant for
Transportation Support Company, Combat Logistics Battalion
46, is one of the few Vietnam veterans still serving in the
Sena, who joined the Marine Corps in 1973, participated in
the evacuation of Vietnam and now is deployed to Iraq during
the drawdown of U.S. forces and equipment, which has been
noted to be the largest operation of its kind since Vietnam.
In April 1975, Sena, attached to Battalion Landing Team, 1st
Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, participated in the
evacuation of Saigon while working as part of a security
team aboard the ships USS Midway and USS Enterprise.
“There were 10 of us, all combat engineers,” Sena
said. “Our function was to make sure that
Vietnamese civilians brought nothing on to the
ship that would jeopardize the mission, such as
weapons or grenades.”
Once on the ships, the civilians were taken to refugee camps in the Philippine
Sena then became part of a team of Marines who helped set up
more refugee camps for the Vietnamese civilians and provide
security for displaced South Vietnamese nationals. |
“I was only 19 at the time, and it was a hell of an
experience,” Sena said. “It has been a drastic change from
those days to now.”
The Marine reservist from Providence, R.I., also noted
changes he saw during a recent visit to his first duty
station at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
“I remember being back at Camp Lejeune right before this
deployment,” he said. “I was driving on base with a young
Marine, and we passed by what used to be an open squad bay.
Now the area is well built up.”
Camp Lejeune, which was a tobacco barn, farm house and
temporary tent cities back in 1941, has grown to a
246-square-mile military training facility. Today, the base
boasts 11 miles of beach capable of supporting amphibious
operations. There are 78 live-fire ranges, 98 maneuver
areas, 34 gun positions, 540 tactical landing zones and a
state-of-the-art Military Operations in Urban Terrain
“Things have changed so much since I was stationed there
when I was active duty,” Sena said. “Who would have thought
I would be back there on the base that I was on in 1973, and
it's now 2009.”
Sena is leading his Marines through the drawdown process.
Their missions include retrograde of gear and equipment from
Al Asad and other small forward operating bases in western
Iraq, and resupply and general service support to the
forward operating bases. He uses his knowledge of the
evacuation of Vietnam to prepare his Marines for their Iraq
Four months ago, Sena gave a class to the battalion about
the difference between the evacuation of Vietnam and the
current drawdown of U.S. forces and equipment.
One difference is the speed at which U.S. forces are
withdrawing. During the Vietnam War, as soon as the fight
was over, U.S. troops were on their way home. However, he
explained, troops in Iraq have stayed past the fight to
assist the Iraqis in rebuilding their country and training
their military forces.
“We're taking our time, because we're not forced to pull out
all at once as we were in the fall of Saigon,” he said.
Back home, Sena works as a lieutenant supervisor with the
Department of Veterans Affairs Police in Boston. He has
served a total of 23 years of active duty in the Marine
“The Marine Corps has made me a better person and has guided
me in the right direction,” he said. “I love the
responsibility that the Marine Corps instills in me to take
care of my junior Marines.
“I'm going to stick around for the Marines until they kick
me out,” he joked. “I have a great bunch of Marines in my
company. They are the future of the Marine Corps.”
Article and photo by USMC LCpl. Melissa A. Latty|
Combat Logistics Regiment 27
Special to American Forces Press Service
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