Pedro Ortiz (1967/05/01)
"Don't come outside to the car, and don't cry, mother," Pedro remarked as he was about to leave Watsonville for the last time, "I want to remember you in your own living room like this."
Pedro Ortiz was born in Fresno County, California, on January 31, 1946, to Raymond and Gloria Ortiz. Over the next several years the couple lived in several communities before divorcing. In addition to Pedro, the Ortiz family consisted of sons Frank and Reynaldo. Later Gloria remarried and brothers Richard and Manuel and sisters Jenny and Lupe Platero were added to Pedro's family.
During the mid-1950s, Pedro was sent to live with his grandparents in the Pajaro Valley where he attended the Pajaro Elementary School for two years.
In the late 1950s Ortiz moved to Calexico where he completed his elementary school education. A final move took him north to Selma, California, where he graduated from Selma High School in 1964.
After spending a year at Reedley College, Ortiz enlisted in the US Army in 1966 and was sent to Fort Ord, California, for basic training. He was then ordered to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he received instruction as a helicopter gunner. In December 1966 Ortiz returned to Watsonville to visit his mother for the last time. He also shared with her his dream of finishing college, becoming a social worker and of making Watsonville his home.
When Pedro Ortiz arrived in Vietnam on January 14, 1967, he was assigned to the 335th Assault Helicopter Company serving in the Saigon area. On May 1, 1967, Pedro was involved in a crash that took his life.
“The 335th Assault Helicopter Company was tasked with providing airlift for a combat assault being conducted by the 9th Infantry Division operating out of Bear Cat base. Nine aircraft departed Bien Hoa, climbed to 1500 feet, and proceeded toward Bear Cat in a left-staggered trail formation. While enroute the pilot of the #3 aircraft noted that #2 was in very close formation with the lead aircraft and did not appear to be adjusting his position appropriately when lead maneuvered. When lead began a gentle right turn his blade tips struck those of the #2 aircraft. Both aircraft broke up in flight. Eight men died as a result of the mid-air collision.”
The body of Pedro Ortiz was returned to Selma, where his father and his two Vietnam veteran brothers were living, for final burial. Specialist Fourth Class Ortiz later was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Air Medal with five Oakleaf clusters.
(CBR; VVMW; VVVW; WRP August 17, 1967 1:4, May 13, 1967 1:5)