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“Ring of Red” tells the story of Chicano Vietnam War vets in their own words

Photo by Patrick Eleazar of Realidyne/Courtesy Pomona College

By JACQUELINE FERNANDEZ

The raw, untold stories of Chicano Vietnam War veterans are being brought to the limelight in the debut of “Ring of Red: A Barrio Story.”

The play – written by Pomona College history professor Tomás Summers Sandoval – takes the testimonios, or testimonial monologues he gathered to heighten stories of patriotism, duty, service, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction and family dynamics in the Chicano community.

Summers Sandoval recorded the memoirs of many veterans and of their families and captured hundreds of hours of oral testimonies over a two-year period with the help of Pomona College students.

The stories became the basis for “Ring of Red.” Here’s an excerpt from one of stories:

“I mean, back home us Chicanos would get roughed up by the cops, but they weren’t shooting us or anything. But these guys in the South, they’re lynching people. When we went off base to a bar, they wouldn’t let the black guys in our unit in. Wouldn’t even sell them a drink.”

Tomás Summers Sandoval | Photo by Patrick Eleazar of Realidyne/Courtesy Pomona College

In many ways, the journey to creating “Ring of Red” was a personal endeavor for Summers Sandoval. His father and an uncle are Vietnam veterans, as were most of the men he knew growing up.

His father will even have a role in the performance.

“Chicanos are underrepresented in theatre and we’ve got a misunderstood story,” says Summers Sandoval.

“We’re talked about in the media like we’re a threat, but Chicanos have been in the U.S. for a long time and we have a given a lot to this country.”

The play – directed by Rose Portillo – will run from Sept. 20-30 at Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd.

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