For decades, information has reached us through newspapers, radio, and television about the interventions carried out by the United States Army in other countries. Additionally, in case of emergency, either to avoid conflicts abroad or civil uprisings that are beyond the reach of the police force. We get images of soldiers transported in jeeps, carrying weapons in the Middle East, or war tanks arriving in desert cities. We also receive many civilian deaths and soldiers killed in service due to attacks or war conflicts. And the death toll, the inexplicable reason for that war, continues to seem catastrophic to us.
The United States has officially declared war 11 times during five separate military conflicts: World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, that according to congressional records, are not marked as declarations of war.
But what is the other side of the war? Or what is the flip side of military service? Yes, the military is trained to receive orders and defend the sovereignty of the United States, but what is not published in the media is the rescue and community assistance work that the military constantly performs. To talk about this topic, we had the honor of interviewing Technical Sergeant Marco Vásquez, who has served seven years as a member of the California Air National Guard, part of the United States Air Force. Marco worked two years as an aircraft mechanic but transferred to the finance department and is now part of the 129th Rescue Wing located at NASA in Mountain View, California. This group is the officers’ support team and has a dual state and federal mission.
Marco is Peruvian. He arrived in 2001, in the State of Alabama, in a military school to learn English with a student visa. Upon moving to California, he attended Foothill College from 2003-2004 and worked as a banker for eight years. His curiosity and desire to support the community-led him in 2014 to visit the National Guard Bureau. Upon arrival, they asked him, do you want to know the world? “What led me to enlist in the Air Force was the desire to serve the community. We are not only trained for war. They send us to service in emergency cases in the face of natural disasters such as fires, landslides, COVID health problems. We help in food banks and in all the missions and activities that Governor Gavin Newson allows participating,” Sergeant Vásquez told us.
Sergeant Vásquez mentioned how the problems of COVID have led to the mobilization of the 129th Rescue Wing commando, which works in conjunction with the army, and has mobilized 3,000 people to help food banks in San José, Stockton, Salinas, and Santa Rosa. They have reached the places where Hispanics have been affected by Covid-19, causing loss of jobs. Also, behind the scenes between Santa Clara County and Los Angeles County, they have mobilized almost 4,000 people between the army and the Air Force to coordinate the vaccination process. They have helped direct cars in the designated stadiums for people to receive the vaccines. In this way, through teamwork, they have managed to vaccinate 60% of the population from the beginning. Likewise, when mechanical ventilators were lacking at the beginning of the pandemic, the 129th Rescue Wing commando transported 100 mechanical ventilators from the Bay Area to the State of New Jersey.
“Our 129th Rescue Wing group has a search and rescue operation as well. For example, if a ship is more than 500 nautical miles away, we come to the rescue if necessary. We have rescued a Chinese crew member who needed emergency medical help in recent years. The rescue helicopters can refuel in the air with the help of a C130 aircraft if necessary. We work as a team, and we help the community. That’s why we take an oath to be there when the community needs us. We have transformed life from civilian to military. We are prepared to react impartially to the emergency. However, everything is a risk. You don’t need to be in combat. For wearing the uniform, we are put at risk because there are people who do not respect what we do,” Sergeant Vásquez stressed.
When we asked Sergeant Marco Vásquez if he recommends that young people enlist in the United States Air Force, he replied that he would ask the person what they want to contribute or do within the service:
- Get paid for their university studies.
- Be included in operations jumping out of planes.
- Live the adrenaline of possible war or enroll in a quiet mission as a chaplain who provides spiritual help to the military.
According to the words of Sergeant Marco, the Air Force teaches discipline and knowing what to do in times of pressure. It’s all a matter of personality. It’s 20 years of service to the nation if people like any area of military development.
While talking about the other face of military service, Sergeant Vásquez mentioned how proud he feels of his daughter Ruth Vásquez, a 7th grader at The Girls’ Middle School in Palo Alto. He explains how he advises his daughter to improve herself and support the Hispanic community. When we asked Ruth what she thought of her father’s work, she said, “I know that my father helps everyone. He supports food banks, helps clean the streets, and is always there for everyone. I feel very proud of him. My mom, Josefina, and dad have always told me to do what I want. My father has helped me plan the finances to start my small business dream of digitizing drawings. I already have my first client, and I am thinking about the name of my company. Also, in the entrepreneurial class at school, we have the company “Kavu Succulents.” I like fashion and creating digital things. My father has inspired me to start realizing my dreams,” Ruth told us.
The 129th Rescue Wing team is integrated with 1,000 members, and 30% is Hispanic. They are the most diverse team nationally, made up of Asians, Russians, Mexicans, Filipinos, and other cultures, between men and women. And military service has always been at the forefront of supporting cultural diversity. “We are the same members of the community who are here to serve. We are the spokespersons for the people before the government in emergencies. We have legal departments within the National Guard, and we channel resources to help our members. Even the military can support their relatives to become legal”, stressed Sergeant Vásquez.
Sergeant Marco Vásquez’s dream is to reach rank 9 of superintendent within the field of finance. He is currently at rank six as a Technical Sergeant. He will surely reach his goal very soon due to his commitment to the community and professionalism within his 129th Rescue Wing team. Sergeant Marco received an award for his work and service at the state level within the National Guard in 2016-2017.
“I recommend people follow their dreams, not let them go. I want to continue advancing in my military career to serve the community and the nation. In case of war, the strength that we have within the army of this country is incredible, but it has to be used as a last resort,” said Sergeant Marco Vásquez.
The 129th Rescue Wing team is located in the NASA facilities, and they share the space with Google. From this informative platform, we appreciate the work of service to the nation and the support to the community of Colonel Jeffrey Waldman, expert pilot, and leader of the 129th Rescue Wing group. And especially, we appreciate the work of Sergeant Marco Vásquez, Hispanic and Peruvian pride, who continues to stand up to support his community and the nation.
For more information about the services provided by the 129th Rescue Wing group, you can call: (650) 390-4134 or visit the website: https://www.129rqw.ang.af.mil.
You can find them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/129RQW or on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/129thRescueWing. You may also contact the California National Guard Public Affairs Office at: (916) 854-3391