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War & Locale: World War II -- Pacific Theater
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By Marjon Rostami
Gilbert Treviño was a 19-year old junior at Texas A&M College when he was drafted for the war. When Treviño went to San Antonio, Texas, for his physical, he expressed an interest in the Marines, and eight months later, he was in combat.
“They didn’t waste any time,” he said.
Treviño was born in Laredo and grew up speaking Spanish. By the end of the war, all three of his brothers had served in the military: one in the Marines, one in the Army and one in the Navy.
Wounded on Iwo Jima when a mortar exploded and damaged his hearing, he declined to report the injury because, “I wanted to stay with my buddies during the battle even though it was very hard for me to hear.” He’s now completely deaf without his hearing aids, he says.
Treviño was discharged in 1946 at the rank of Private First Class. He soon returned to Texas A&M and changed his major from chemical engineering to veterinary medicine. Six years later, he was standing in line alphabetically, waiting to receive his doctoral diploma in veterinary medicine, when a Western Union messenger showed up and said he was looking for a man named Treviño.
“He found me and presented me with a telegram,” Treviño said. “I opened up the telegram and it said, ‘Greetings, you are hereby ordered to go to Corpus Christi Naval Base to take a physical to go to the Korean War.’”
He got called up again because, by law, all doctors assume a military responsibility regardless of prior service. Law or no law, however, Treviño says he felt getting drafted again wasn’t right, and that he tried to ask why, but was only told he was required to report as ordered.
It was May of 1952.
After graduation, he worked at a veterinary clinic in Hollywood for only six months before reporting to the Army. Those were the most memorable six months of work for him, he says, because of the Hollywood stars he had as clients. The clinic was located right across the street from the Republic studios on Ventura Boulevard.
Treviño’s new military duties were to inspect food, take charge of the small animal clinic and care for an old horse named Pat, who’d been deployed as part of a cavalry battalion in WWII. Treviño says his commander made it clear that keeping Pat alive was the most important assignment, telling Treviño, “If you allow this horse to die on your watch, I’m going to send you to Korea on the first available plane.”
The horse lived to the ripe age of 45.
“Pat was given a military funeral and his tomb is [at] Fort Sam Houston,” wrote Treviño after his interview.
After Pat died, Treviño’s duties were mainly food-inspection related, which he wasn’t happy about.
“I felt I had gone to school for six years to be a veterinarian and to practice on animals, and that was so far removed from what I had envisioned to be my life work,” he said. “Anybody can learn how to inspect eggs and meat. You don’t need six years and a doctor of veterinary medicine to do those things.”
The military discharged him once again in 1954, at which point he returned to his passion – veterinary medicine. This time he worked in a clinic in El Paso, Texas.
Treviño says he enjoyed being in the Army more than the Marine Corps because he felt less racial tension in the Army. In fact, he volunteered for the Army in 1959, thus serving the nation through three wars. “I retired from active duty in 1976 as a full Colonel,” he wrote.
“Racial bigotry is slowly being erased from this country, [but] not entirely. There is still too much of it,” Treviño said. “I don’t use my ethnicity as a club. I use it as a means for showing other people that any Hispanic can accomplish things as any Anglo – maybe a little bit better.”
Mr. Treviño was interviewed in San Antonio, Texas, on August 4, 2007, by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez.