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East Union High graduate served 2 tours in Vietnam
Vietnam veteran Don Jaramillo of Manteca is looking to take it easy this Memorial Day, which is always a special day for him.

Memorial Day is a special time for local military veterans such as Don Jaramillo.

He did two tours of duty in Vietnam, receiving three medals of valor with the 101st Airborne Division A158 Aviation.

“When I think of Memorial Day, I think of my family and friends,” said Jaramillo Thursday at his Manteca home.

He’s actually planning on a quiet Memorial Day weekend, possibly squeezing in some time for fishing.

A 1969 graduate of East Union High, Jaramillo was stationed at Camp Evans, a former U.S. Army and Marine Corps base just northwest of Hue in central Vietnam back in April 1970.

“I served as a helicopter crew chief / door gunner on a UH1-1H Huey,” he said.

One of the parallels of his time serving the country took place on Aug. 13, 1979.

Known as Don “Geronimo” Jaramillo, he was wounded that day, taking a bullet to his back while in Wia, Vietnam.

His uncle, Gordon “Sonny” Thomson was killed in battle on Aug. 10, 1950 in Kia, Korea.

“It was exactly 20 years and three days (on being shot in Vietnam) from when my uncle was killed in Korea,” Jaramillo said.

He was awarded an air medal for the emergency evacuation of Fire Base Ripcord, and two for operations in Laos’ “Lam Son 719.”

Jaramillo explained that “Lam Son 719 was a 45-day incursion into Laos where 100 helicopters were destroyed and 600 more received extension battle damage.”

One of his fond memories was being reunited with high school friend Ron Scheeringa, who served as his door gunner from May 1971 to December 1971.

He returned to civilian life afterwards, becoming a regional production manager with Monier Concrete Roof Tile. Jaramillo retired from there, working 25 years.

He went back to concrete roof tile business later on, working as a production manager with Eagle Roofing Products for 10 years before retiring for a second time. 

“I spent 35 years working in concrete roof tile,” said Jaramillo, who attended several reunions with his Army buddies prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They met up in New Orleans in 2001, and held several such gatherings in Texas, Colorado, Washington DC, and Alabama, to name a few.

“I think there’s still a few of us around,” Jaramillo said.