Laura Pariseau grew up in Oxnard, California. Both of her parents were immigrants from Mexico. Her father was a cobbler of renown, giving them standing within the community. After graduating from Catholic High School, she completed a semester and a half abroad in Mexico City. She then entered junior college, but feeling it was not challenging enough, she sought adventure elsewhere. Attending a job fair with her girlfriend, they found the Army recruiter’s table, and were surprised to find a WAC (Women’s Army Corps) NCO recruiting women. Laura felt that she had an ability with languages, decided to enlist for language school, and was slotted into the Vietnamese language course at DLI (Defense Language Institute), with a follow-on school for Interrogation at Ft. Holabird, Maryland. She was one of the first women to complete the Interrogation course, and that caused some confusion when she arrived in Vietnam because the command was unsure of how to employ a female interrogator. She was eventually assigned to the IDHS (Intelligence Data Handling System), a group that translated and catalogued captured Vietnamese documents, creating a database of strategic intelligence. She felt that her service in Vietnam was rewarding enough that she voluntarily extended twice, spending over two years in country and being promoted twice, reaching the rank of SPC6 (E6) before returning to the United States. Near the end of her time in Vietnam, she determined that she enjoyed the Army and wanted to make it a career, so she applied for Officer Candidate School. In 1988, she retired as a Major.
In this interview, she talks about her childhood and her service in Vietnam. She remembers the Christmas of ’69, the loneliest one she experienced, and how, even now, the song “Feliz Navidad” makes her think of her BEQ (Bachelor Enlisted Quarters) in Vietnam. She recalls being shot at by two Vietnamese on a motorcycle as her scariest moment while deployed. She reflects on her most painful moment, which occurred when she was harassed by protestors in California. She speaks highly of the Vietnamese she worked with, noting that they were very friendly and “genuine.” Finally, she contextualizes what her service means to her, and explains what it means to be welcomed home.