There are a large number of veterans living among us in Pecos County,
and they each have an abundance of untold stories just waiting to be
heard. After participating in the ground breaking of the upcoming VA
Clinic, veteran Pete Fierro felt compelled to share the many
challenges he faced while returning home from Vietnam.
“I'm from Marathon, but I live here in Fort Stockton. It was hard for
me to get back to west Texas after my one-year tour in Vietnam. It was
like someone put a jinx on me,” began Fierro shaking his head.
“Me and my friend Don Fuentes, who is also from Marathon, were on a
early flight from L.A. to El Paso. The stewardess came out and told us
that the plane was having a minor problem. We were only in the air for
maybe 30 minutes when they turned the plane back around,” remembered
Adjusting his Air Force hat, he continued, “It was the week before
Christmas, so the plane was packed to the max. Getting off the plane
there were people carrying gifts, holding onto their kids – there was
a lot going on. But finally, we got to board a second plane about an
hour later... The stewardess came out again, and informed us that a
smoke alarm had gone off in the cockpit. We were already in the air
for about an hour, so we could smell the smoke in the cabin,” said
Fierro widening his eyes.
Reliving the story, Fierro quieted his voice and he said, “When a
situation makes you question whether you will live to see tomorrow,
unity kicks in.”
He went on to describe how scared passengers held hands from across
the aisles of the airplane. He said that couples held onto each other
tightly and parents consoled their children.
“We all kept saying, 'it's going to be okay', and they then turned the
plane around a second time. ... We had to board a third plane, but my
friend Don was bumped off the flight. He told me, 'Pete you go ahead,
I'll board another plane', which he did. Don got bumped off again
after that, but in Phoenix. I was able to make it to El Paso – thank
God. When Don got there, it was already late at night. We had been
trying to get to El Paso since about 10:30 in the morning,” said
Fierro leaning back in his seat.
The two veterans stayed at a YMCA facility overnight, then headed to
board a bus from El Paso to Marathon in the morning. Before boarding
the bus and final leg of transportation, Fierro said the bad luck
continued to chase them.
“When we got to the bus station, we saw people holding signs. We
didn't know what was going on. I asked someone, 'Hey, que paso?' and
they told us that the Greyhound drivers were on strike,” said Fierro
chuckling at the unfortunate occurrence.
“It was all sorts of chaos. The protesting drivers were trying to
convince the substitute drivers not to drive us to Marathon. Finally
the bus got a driver, and me and Don talked about our tour in Vietnam
the whole trip... When we got to the little Exxon in Marathon, I could
hear music. I didn't know where it was coming from. Turns out my
brother Rocky arranged a band to play when we got back home. Half of
there town was there waiting for us,” he said with a smile.
Fierro says he was so caught up in the excitement that he forgot his
military records and documents on the bus. The records and paper work
were eventually found and mailed back by to him, but Fierro remained
with an unsettled feeling.
“I was 19 years old. I made it back home alive, but I felt something
heavy in my chest. Like something wasn't right. Two weeks after I made
it home, I got the news that my brother Rocky had died in a car
accident between Pecos and Fort Davis. At that instant, that uneasy
feeling turned into sorrow and emptiness. I was proud to serve our
country in the Air Force, but the end of my service left me with some
bad memories,” said Fierro finishing his story.
Today, Fierro's luck has changed. He resides in Fort Stockton with his
wife Clara of over 19 years and enjoys being an active participant in
all Fort Stockton veteran events. He has two children, Javier and
Jennifer, from his first marriage, and two dogs, Pepito and Lolita,
who he considers his furry children. In his spare time, he enjoys
watching Cowboys and Longhorn football games.
“Looking back on that trip home, I can't complain these days. The VA
and Fort Stockton have been very good to me,” said Fierro.