Hometown Heroes - Ralph Derouen
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Just like many Vietnam vets, Ralph Derouen faced a cold reception when he returned home. But Derouen doesn’t apologize for signing up to join the Marines in 1968.
“I considered the Marine Corps to be elite,” said Derouen. “I wanted to be one of the elite. But after I got in boot camp, I said well.....”
Again, Derouen wasn’t drafted. He signed up for the Marines at the height of the war.
“When you’re over there, you can’t think of home, you think of yourself, number one. To stay alive, you gotta think of yourself. Anybody tell you they’re not scared, they’re crazy. You’re scared. I guarantee you’re scared.”
Ralph’s unit dealt with Claymore mines and tank demolition.
“I carried the old bazooka. It was a big old long thing. It weighed 13.7 pounds. I had to carry two of them. They were heavy.”
After serving 13 months in Vietnam, Derouen returned to the states to train other Marines.
“I went to boot camp in San Diego and when I came home from Vietnam, I went to Paris Island as a rifle coach. I got to see both ends of the Marine Corps boot camps. The Marine Corps only has two boot camps, one on Paris Island and one in San Diego.”
And just like many Vietnam veterans, he was not given a hero’s welcome home until decades later, like the ceremonies held each year at East Beauregard High School.
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