Reynaldo Ayala SanchezPrivate First Class
A CO, 1ST BN, 16TH INF RGT, 1 INF DIV
Army of the United States
19 November 1943 - 22 April 1968
Big Spring, Texas
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The database page for Reynaldo Ayala Sanchez
I was inducted into the Army on September 13, 1967 at the Abilene, Texas AFEES. After being inducted, a group of about 12 of us were huddled together and we were informed that we would be shipped to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for basic training. We were from the areas west of Abilene, oilfield cities and agriculture towns, places like Midland, Odessa, Lamesa, Ackerley, Big Spring, Stanton, Loraine and Colorado City. For some reason, I was given the task as being the leader of the bunch and I was given the parcel to deliver when we reached Fort Polk. I guess it was an alphabetical thing, my last name is Brown and we were a small group.
We were bussed to the airport where we were to board a Trans Texas Air Line flight to Houston and then change planes to Fort Polk. None of us had ever flown before and our eyes were as big as saucers as we boarded the plane. That was when I met Ray Sanchez. Honest to God, I never really knew his first name, as we were hung with our last names from then on. He said he was from Big Spring, a community about 60 miles east of my hometown of Odessa. Ray towered over me and I was almost 6 feet tall. As we were getting ready to board the plane, Ray made the comment that he was really an Indian and his name was "Tonto" and that Indians didn't fly in airplanes, they rode horses.
That made a lasting impression on me and "Tonto" became his name for the rest of our time together at Fort Polk for the next 9 weeks. Ray was as full of life as anyone I had ever known. He joked about everything and he loved life. We ended up in the same BCT Company, D Company, 5th Bn, 1st Training Brigade, South Fort Polk. I was in the 1st Platoon and Ray was in the 4th. Throughout basic, I would always see Ray, as we were from the same neck of West Texas. He was just the kind of guy you would remember. Once I asked him how things were going and he said he didn't like the Army because they had no horses.
My last contact with Ray was the day we graduated and we were all saying goodbye. I told him I would look him up in Big Spring someday when I got out of the Army. He said he would do the same if he was in Odessa. I headed to Fort Huachuca, Arizona and Ray remained at Fort Polk to be shipped to Tigerland at North Fort for his AIR in infantry. I can still remember the bear hug he gave me as we departed.
For the past thirty years, I had wondered about Ray and the guys I had served with in the Army. I had often wondered if anyone had made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam. I never thought of Ray in that way. I have traveled to Big Spring many times through the years as I married a girl from there. I always thought of Ray, but felt he had probably moved on from there. I started a pilgrimage about a year ago to honor those from my area who had been killed in Vietnam. I had aligned myself with the Permian Basin Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Midland, Texas whose mission has been to do the same thing. Big Spring, Texas is one of the communities. Through researching I must have looked at Ray's name a hundred times or so, but it never registered. Suddenly a few weeks back, I found out that the name was my BCT buddy, "Tonto."
I arrived in Vietnam in February 1968 and Ray according to records arrived in mid-March, 1968. He was killed five weeks later on April 22, 1968, from multiple fragment wounds. Ray was buried with full military honors at the Mt. Olive Cemetery in Big Spring.
Ray will always be in my thoughts. He is honored by this community, the Big Spring Vietnam Memorial, and the Permian Basin Vietnam Veteran's Memorial located at the Midland, Texas International Airport.
I just hope they have horses in heaven.
Pvt Reynaldo A. Sanchez
Bayonet training, Fort Polk, Nov 1967
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Channing Prothro, former CAP Marine
Last updated 08/10/2009