We caught up with Richard Curtis at a bus stop in front of the VA hospital in Loma Linda. He is an Omnitrans regular on Route 2. He rides the bus to his appointments at the Loma Linda VA hospital where he also volunteers as a 2nd Floor Concierge four days a week.
The tall quiet vet talked to us about the three tours he served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam where he was shot down three times. “I was a prisoner of war for about nine months in Cambodia, before I managed to escape. The guys that held us used drugs, and while they were high I managed to gain their confidence. I listened to them talk and learned how to speak Vietnamese. They wanted to just sit out the war and not have any problems. Basically if we didn’t give them problems, they wouldn’t give us any. I guess you could say I caught them slipping and took that opportunity to escape.
There were five of us, but we had to split up when they started looking for us. Three of us walked for three days until we were picked up by the Marines. The other two are still missing in action. Afterwards I was in bad shape. I was suffering from malaria and dysentery. I weighed like 119 pounds. I spent about 4 months in recuperation then flew back to Vietnam.”
“I come to the VA now because have problems with my vision. During the war, a rocket exploded in front of my chopper and it almost popped my eyes out. I was bleeding out my eyes and my nose. But the VA Hospital here gives outstanding care, and I come here often.”
Richard paused for a moment, nodding at a couple of the vets who were disembarking from the bus, then continued.
“To tell you the truth, I’d rather ride Omnitrans than ride a car. I really would. The drivers are always courteous and friendly on this route. There’s two buses that run the route back-to-back so it’s pretty efficient and I can always make my appointments on time. Sometimes I read, sometimes I shoot the bull with the other vets that are on the bus. I like Omnitrans.”
– Juno Kughler Carlson
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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at email@example.com