Jungle man LG served and led in Vietnam
Counselor Mariano Leon-Guerrero holds a position in the Army Rangers Hall of Fame, an honor awarded only to America's most extraordinary U.S. Army Rangers.
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Many students have had the opportunity to interact with counselor Mariano Leon-Guerrero (usually called LG). Most ERHS students don’t, however, know the Jungle Man’s story.
Originally from Guam, LG grew up with a lot of loyalty to America, who he and many in his country saw as his island’s liberators.
“Patriotism, for us, has a different flavor on the island. My generation, we grew up hearing stories about how our island was liberated in World War II from the Japanese,” he said. “The atrocities, the harsh treatment of our people, even just for not bowing and curtsying in respect when they walked by, and being beaten, up to digging their own graves and being beheaded.”
He was just 18 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army, following the proud example of his father, grandfather, uncle, and brother.
“So my brother got drafted and I didn’t wait to get drafted. There was the attitude that you’re young and strong and you feel invincible, and I felt, hey, I could contribute,” LG said.
He served in Vietnam for two years, but when he originally got there at 19, he was thrown right in.
“I was baptized under fire. I was a leader. I did everything in training, so I was a team leader when I got there,” he said. “What that means is that, as an 18 year old, I was responsible for four other people.”
LG lost people more than once while in combat, and despite being told that eventually he would get used to it, it hurt him every time.
“My culture, I just get close to my people. And they say not to get close to them, but life is short,” he said. “How could I really support them if I don’t really know them? Know what their challenges are, what their weaknesses are.”
In 1976, he wanted to get out and go to college, but as someone very talented at what he did, he had a hard time.
“Everybody up the chain of command didn’t want to see me leave, because I had so much to give. They wanted me to be an officer,” LG said. “But then, the attrition upped the tempo and the war started to end and the forces started to go down and with me just having a high school diploma, I wasn’t gonna go too far as an officer, as I’d be competing with college students and West Pointers and I said I was out.”
He wanted to increase his professionalism and be the very best, though, so he decided to be a U.S. Army Airborne Ranger – the epitome of an infantryman.
“To make a long story short, I was an Airborne Ranger for the rest of my military career,” he said.
He served as a Ranger for 23 years. After different points, he and his select special operations unit trained with the SEALS, Special Forces, Air Force, Marines, and Delta Force. After he retired in 1993, he was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame. He had risen up to be the regimental sergeant major, which is the most senior enlisted non-commission officer in the 75th
While serving as a ranger and afterwards, LG ended up getting his B.A., his teaching certificate, and two M.Ed.s in education. After retiring, he went on to teach social studies at Rogers High School, then switched to ERHS to be a counselor. Though he misses the classroom, he loves the work he does.
“It was an honor to serve. Quiet professionalism,” he said.