NORMAN — While many Vietnam veterans received a cold homecoming in the midst of a society hostile to war when returning from their service, Blas Preciado Jr. returned to a warm, community welcome from his Kiowa Tribe.
Preciado joined the U.S. Marines at age 19 because he had two brothers already enlisted in the Marines. Soon after joining, he was shipped to Camp Pendleton in California where he received on-the-job training as a warehouse man.
After training, he began his first job at Camp Las Flores. He wasn’t there too long before he received orders to report to an infantry battalion mortar platoon that was about to be deployed to Vietnam.
“I had half a day training on a mortar, was processed and then sent off,” Preciado said, referring to the lack of preparation he entered the war with.
“We were put under fire and we performed,” he said.
Preciado had served in the field for five months when he had the opportunity to go home because one of his brothers had been shipped to Vietnam to serve as well. Preciado said that although what he did was legal, the decision to leave was a difficult one.
“After I left all the trauma of war, I had to deal with guilt,” he said. “It didn’t come without consequences.”
What may have helped him cope was the support he found at home in his Kiowa community.
“Recognition is therapy,” he said. “Indians, including myself, we were recognized by the members of our communities.”
Preciado said powwows were often the common way of celebrating a returned warrior.
Maintaining this sense of honor is something that is near to Preciado’s heart today.
“That sense of self-worth was reinforced by that recognition,” he said.
Preciado began to take an active role in welcoming ceremonies when he was asked to join the Kiowa Black Leggings Society in 1990. The society, which has been in existence more than 200 years is for warriors, Kiowa members with military service.