Montez’s suffering really began after he returned home

He has three purple hearts from his service as a Marine. But for Port Orchard’s Roger Montez, his greatest pain from serving in Vietnam came when he returned home.
“As our aircraft was approaching, all of us were jubilant to be home,” Montez said. “Once we left the confines of the post, we were spit on and had urine thrown on us by protesters.”
That continued when Montez traveled to a restaurant and was told to leave because “they don’t serve baby killers.”
Montez, who now is a regular at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2669 on Bay Street in Port Orchard, said the aftermath of the war impacted him for years. After serving from 1967-76, Montez said he worked in a variety of “menial” jobs simply because he did not want to interact with people anymore.
“I would say most of my pain was from the way we were treated by the American people when we came back home,” said Montez, adding that therapy eventually helped him to where he was comfortable around others.
Montez now often engages with others from his era — and more — at the VFW. It almost was a missed opportunity.
While on a joint mission in Vietnam, his battalion’s sister company confused them with the enemy and notified aircraft support. He and several others were struck before they popped green smoke to notify the aircraft that they wounded U.S. soldiers. Montez nearly was killed again in April 1968 when he was wounded during the Battle of Khe Sanh.
“Our whole platoon was pretty much wiped out,” said Montez, who recovered in a sanctuary first in the Philippines and then Guam until he was released that October.
Later that month, Montez again was shot — this time by a sniper.
“From that point I was sent home,” he said. “I didn’t see much combat, but the combat I did see was pretty heavy.”
Montez said he has no regrets about his service and understood the risks he was taking when he enlisted.
“Of course everyone was scared,” he said. “You live your life day-to-day. There’s no future for you.”
After returning to Camp Pendleton in California, he served as a demolitions instructor before he was transferred to the Marine barracks. Montez later returned to Camp Pendleton as a corrections specialist.
Montez, whose son-in-law served in Iraq, now works with some younger veterans at the VFW and appreciates that military personnel receive a much better reception when they return from service.
He credits a lot of that to the parade-like environment that they receive, where service members often are greeted upon arrival by their spouse and children. It is an atmosphere much different from the one he remembers.
“They’ve got a great experience when they come back,” Montez said. “There’s been huge changes. They’re a lot more lenient than they used to be.”