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‘Don’t be too hard on us’

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Herminio Trujillo

Perspective is everything.

Fifty years ago, Herminio Trujillo was a 24-year-old private in the New Mexico Army National Guard, and one of the soldiers who responded to the University of New Mexico anti-war demonstrations.

He maintained that none of the guardsmen bayoneted anybody intentionally; those who got stabbed basically bumped into bayonets in the confusion of the unfolding events.

Now a retired school administrator in Utah, Trujillo recalled that there were thousands of people on the mall.

Positioned at the center of a skirmish line, there were about 30 soldiers to his left, 30 to his right, and another 20 or more following behind. “Our orders were to go through and clear the area and if somebody did not obey we were to knock them down and step over them, and someone behind would take them,” he said.

“The first person I saw who got cut reached out and grabbed the bayonet with his hand.”

He recalled another man with a cast on his leg walking with crutches. Trujillo yelled to the man to move. The man, he said, responded, “‘move me, (expletive).'”

One of the guardsmen struck the man in his chest with the butt of his rifle, knocking him down. Another man pushed through to aid him and backed into a bayonet, cutting him deeply near the elbow, Trujillo said.

He also recalled seeing a KOB-TV newsman who was standing on a raised planter. “He was one of those guys who didn’t move and got knocked over. He fell onto a pruned bush, like a rosebush, but he was not stabbed that I could see.”

The crowd began to disperse more quickly after the guardsmen were ordered to put on gas masks and several canisters of tear gas were launched. The entire sweep took about 15-20 minutes, he estimated.

“Don’t be too hard on us,” Trujillo said. “We were just a bunch of young guys following orders; and in those days, if you didn’t follow orders there was a real good chance you could be deactivated and the next thing you know, you’re up for the draft and gone.”

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