SP/4 (Specialist 4) Alberto Ruiz – “Roo”
Researched and written by DC
Holds the rank of private during first and second season and in third season is promoted to Specialist along with Danny Percell just days before being transferred to Camp Barnett in the episode The Ties that Bind.
He is from the Bronx, NY and is Puerto Rican, speaking Spanish as fluently as English.
Age: Approximately 18-19 years.
Physical Attributes: Handsome and cocky, Ruiz has black hair, dark eyes and skin. He’s shorter than most of his teammates at 5’10” but is strongly built with a quick smile.
- Firebase Ladybird, I Corps (September 1967- January 1968) with 2nd Platoon, B (“Bravo”) Company, 3/44th Infantry Regiment, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. Is assigned to Third Squad as the platoon’s machine gunner, carrying the “Sixty” (M-60 machine gun).
Tan Son Nhut, III Corps (late January (Tet) – April 1968)
- Remainder of first tour into second tour:
Camp Barnett, III Corps (May 1968 until he ships home- date unclear.) Member of Team Viking.*
*Days before he is transferred to Barnett, Ruiz, along with Percell, is promoted to Specialist.
- Bronze Star with “V” Device for Valor, awarded in episode 21 (The Hill), and again in episode 45 (Thanks for the Memories) with oak leaf cluster for his acts in the episode Cloud Nine.
- Purple Heart
- National Defense Service Medal
- Vietnam Campaign Medal
- Vietnam Service Medal
- Combat Infantry Badge
Specialist Alberto Ruiz, called Roo by everyone, comes to Firebase Ladybird in September of 1967. Young and cocky, he jumps in line with the rest of the men at Chu-lai when Sergeant Anderson looks for replacements to take back to Ladybird. When Anderson questions his ability with the “Sixty,” Alberto tells him with pride that he’s from the Bronx and not afraid of blood.
Roo comes in with Privates Roger Horn, Daniel Percell, and Scott Baker plus Lieutenant Myron Goldman to Firebase Ladybird where he is assigned to Third Squad. Alberto appears in all but one episode of the series, Gray Brown Odyssey.
He came from Longwood Avenue, South Bronx.
He hates rats.
He has a mother and sister living in the Bronx along with a large extended family. But his father left when he was an infant.
He was once a member of a gang.
Roo has a sweet nature despite his tough guy bravado and a clear sense of right and wrong. Despite this, he butts heads almost immediately with Taylor upon his arrival at Ladybird. He doesn’t much care at first for his partner, easy-going Scott Baker, telling Scott he’s dumb and ugly. Over time, that changes and a real friendship also develops and continues with Taylor. After both are stranded and left to find their own way back in the episode Acceptable Losses, there are no two closer buddies.
Toward the end of Ruiz’s second tour, he and Taylor discuss running a restaurant together.
In the episode Soldiers, Taylor and Ruiz convince Anderson to get their R&R changed to Hawaii where Percell has gone to see his ailing father. The three tear up the town along with a taxi driver, getting drunk and into a bar fight at one point. Ruiz also gets a tattoo that says Born to Kill. But it’s a sobering experience as he and his friends realize how much things changed since they’d left the States, as they’re considered nothing more than baby killers. When getting ready to return to Vietnam, they stand in respect while a flag draped coffin is unloaded from a plane.
Ruiz can be superstitious, sometimes clinging to the Caribbean religion Santeria. At one point in the episode The Ties that Bind, Goldman asks him to take position in a graveyard. Ruiz balks, and when Goldman calls him on it, asking if he’s superstitious, Alberto informs him it’s a matter of respect.
Before that, at the beginning of second season, Ruiz tries helping a newbie named Crawford who is terrified when they come under fire in the episode Saigon. The kid is killed and Ruiz believes the bullet was meant for him.
After that, Alberto goes through a period of fear, losing his footing and struggling to find his courage again. Johnson, Percell and Taylor all try to help him, covering for him at times. Even Goldman notices that Ruiz is struggling. Eventually Danny sits and talks to him one evening in the episode For What it’s Worth, telling him that maybe he should talk to Dr. Jennifer Seymour, a civilian psychiatrist at Tan Son Nhut. That he needs to get a handle on this. Ruiz doesn’t want to, saying he has his pride. But eventually, Alberto sums up the courage to talk to Jennifer.
In Acceptable Losses Ruiz, along with Taylor, doesn’t make it to the PZ (pickup zone) in time for pickup with the rest of Team Viking. Forced to “escape and evade,” the two are missing in action for approximately four weeks before finally making it back to safety. During that time, their teammates refuse to believe they’ve been killed and hold out hope they’ll be found. They return in the episode War is a Contact Sport right after the incident involving Kuslits’ death and Colonel Brewster’s return.
Unlike Percell and maybe because of his time as MIA with Marcus, Ruiz doesn’t pass judgment on the now destroyed Hockenbury.
In the episode I Am What I Am, Alberto meets and falls in love with Lieutenant Susanna Lazado, a nurse he meets in Saigon. She is Mexican-American, young and beautiful and Ruiz is instantly captivated by her. But he moves too quickly and she becomes angry at him over dinner and leaves abruptly. Alberto realizes his mistakes and writes her a letter, apologizing and explaining his actions. They make up, she forgives him and the two date for a while. But Susanna isn’t strong enough to withstand the horrors of Vietnam and when Alberto ends up MIA, she has a breakdown and is shipped home before he can see her again.
In the end, Alberto along with Percell leaves Vietnam to go home after two tours. He returns to the Bronx where, in the last episode of the series, we see him back in his mother’s apartment. He’s gotten work as a security guard and is going back to school. At one point he talks with Danny who is back in Montana doing construction. They both are hurting, missing their friends back in Vietnam and feeling they don’t fit in anymore. The last image of Ruiz is of him feeding pigeons on a roof, wearing his old fatigue shirt. He is lonely and lost, with tears on his cheeks as he mutters that it just “don’t mean nuthin’.”