Ramirez, Juan 1949-
RAMIREZ, Juan 1949-
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM.
CAREER: Owner of a landscaping business. Activist with the United Farm Workers of America. Military service: U.S. Marine Corps, served two tours of duty during the Vietnam conflict.
A Patriot after All: The Story of a Chicano VietnamVet, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Juan Ramirez originally wrote A Patriot after All: The Story of a Chicano Vietnam Vet as an undergraduate thesis, the writing of which was a "spiritual journey" and his way to come to terms with his life. Ramirez grew up in a middle-class Mexican American household in Menlo Park, California, and at age eighteen he enlisted in the Marine Corps and served two tours of duty in Vietnam. This time in his life was a descent into hell, as he suffered at the hands of a brutal drill sergeant, experienced discrimination, and endured the horrors of war. Ramirez took refuge in alcohol and drugs, and when he returned to the States and was undesirably discharged, he continued his destructive behavior while suffering from guilt, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and the effects of years of substance abuse. He committed various crimes and even attempted suicide.
Ramirez also, however, became an activist with the United Farm Workers, and Booklist's Joe Collins felt the passages in which Ramirez writes about his time with this group are the "most fascinating." Arrested for drunk driving, assaulting policemen, and resisting arrest, as he continued to rely on alcohol and drugs, Ramirez underwent group therapy for veterans and treatment for alcoholism. But it wasn't until 1983 that he finally began to turn his life around. Jan Barry, who reviewed the memoir for Nonviolent Activist, the magazine of the War Resisters League, said that "eventually, aided by a number of friends, acquaintances, and lovers, Ramirez confronted his nightmarish war memories and worked on healing long-festering emotional wounds he had been self-medicating with booze, the buzz of street drugs, and bluster." Ramirez appealed his undesirable discharge successfully, earned a college degree, and eventually started his own business.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor noted that Ramirez "ends with a convincing plea that his serious maladjustment problems should not add to the already 'damaging myths about the Vietnam veteran.'" One of the steps Ramirez took in order to get well involved acknowledging his heritage. Dennis Showalter wrote, in Multi-cultural Review, that while Ramirez's story is "quarterin-the-slot predictable," it nonetheless "presents part of a Hispanic experience in Vietnam that was as complex as the Hispanic community itself and that still remains relatively unexplored."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Ramirez, Juan, A Patriot after All: The Story of a Chicano Vietnam Vet, University of New Mexico Press (Albuquerque, NM), 1999.
Booklist, February 1, 1999, Joe Collins, review of APatriot after All: The Story of a Chicano Vietnam Vet, p. 960.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1999, review of A Patriot after All, pp. 127-128.
Multicultural Review, September, 1999, Dennis Show-alter, review of A Patriot after All, p. 76.
War Resisters League Web site, http://www.war resisters.org/ (May-June, 2002), Jan Barry, review of A Patriot after All..*