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Celebrating Freedom 40 Years Later

by Circe Olson Woessner

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Mr. and Mrs. Jacquez

On March 15, 2013 there was a Dinner/Dance in the Santa Fe Elks Lodge to Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Release of Ex-Vietnam Prisoner-of-War, Juan Jacquez.  Prior to the event, the New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services sent out the following press release:

 (SANTA FE, NM)— The public is invited to attend a free Dinner & Dance in Santa Fe on March 15 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release from captivity of former Vietnam Prisoner-of-War Juan Jacquez, who will be attending with his wife and family members.

The dinner and dance will be at the Santa Fe Elks Lodge, located at 1615 Old Santa Fe Trail. The host for the evening is the Vietnam Veterans of American Northern New Mexico Chapter 996. Dinner begins at 6pm, followed by dancing from 8-11pm. Music will be provided by popular northern New Mexico band Camino Oscuro. The dinner & dance are free, but donations to help cover costs will be accepted at the door.

Jacquez spent three years and ten months in captivity after he and two fellow U.S. Army infantrymen were ambushed and taken prisoner while on patrol in South Vietnam on May 11, 1969—Mother’s Day, and only 20-days until he was scheduled to finish his tour.

Jacquez, who grew up in northern New Mexico and currently lives in Santa Fe, was forced to march three days through dense jungle to a prison camp in Cambodia. He was imprisoned in a crudely-made bamboo cage with his legs shackled, and given only one cup of rice and one cup of water in the morning and then again in the evening.

After six months of being subjected to almost daily torture, Jacquez was then taken to downtown Hanoi in North Vietnam, where he spent time in various prisons—including the infamous Hoa Loa prison, sarcastically nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton by American soldiers for its squalid conditions and brutal treatment of American prisoners by the North Vietnamese.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     He was freed on March 27, 1973 when the U.S. began pulling out troops after signing the Paris Peace Accords—the Peace Treaty signed between North and South Vietnam which ended America’s involvement in Vietnam.

The evening began with a Flag Line posted by the Patriot Guard Riders.  Many organizations and friends of the Jacquez family sponsored the festivities.  The Mayor of Santa Fe, David Coss proclaimed March 15th to be Juan Jacquez Day, and Secretary Timothy Hale was a guest speaker. Jacquez’ daughter, Danelle Jimenez, made a moving speech about her father. Vietnam Veterans of America Post 996 presented Mrs. Jacquez with a challenge coin.  Throughout all the pomp and ceremony Juan Jacquez remained humble and reverent.

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It was a wonderfully inspiring event.

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