Vietnam Veteran Forum

Veterans Eddy Johnson, Aaron Garcia, Pat Sprinkel, and Gary Young visited La Quinta High School to share stories of their time served in the Vietnam War to junior students enrolled in U.S History. This Vietnam Veteran Forum has been operating for 15 years, thanks to Mrs. Schuler, the social sciences department chair.

Schuler, one of LQ’s U.S. History teachers, was recognized by the County of Riverside for her dedication and enthusiasm to the students of the Coachella Valley and veterans throughout her teaching career.

The first speaker, Eddy Johnson, was only 19 years old when he enlisted in the Army. “What I’m about to tell you… I can picture it in my mind like it was yesterday,” Johnson said, describing his post-traumatic stress disorder.

Johnson told a story about a time when he and a lady friend went to a drive-in theater and he got scared when someone threw a “turd bomb” next to the car. After leaving the army, he turned to pills “to forget” and became suicidal. “You guys heal me,” he shared.

After eight years in the Marine Corps, Garcia decided to leave and has been an instructor at Indio High School for 20 years. Garcia received his purple heart after being shot four times during his time serving in the Marine Corps. 

72-year-old Pat Sprinkel graduated from Coachella Valley High School and College of the Desert. When Sprinkel landed in Vietnam, he said, “I [looked] out the window seeing explosions thinking, ‘Wow, I don’t remember this in training.’” Sprinkel was in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. During that time, they used a weapon called Agent Orange. Due to the chemicals in Agent Orange, veterans, including Sprinkel, have been diagnosed with cancer and many have died of cancer as well.

Gary Young was a helicopter pilot sent to Vietnam in 1965. Young was in Vietnam for a year and was stationed by the Cambodian border. He delivered three main things: food, ammunition, and personnel. “Almost every day we got shot at,” said Young. After Vietnam, Young worked in electronic manufacturing with lasers and radios. “There is more life left for all of us,” Young concluded.

“I listened to their experiences,” Desi Yeager ‘19 commented, “Just learning about them made me appreciate them more.”

Viannet Villages ‘19 felt the forum was much more for the veterans to heal themselves. She also added that by attending the forum, it made the veterans’ experiences feel more real to the students. “It wasn’t just posed,” she added.