Raymon (Jay) Castro grew up in the Mississippi River town of Savanah, Illinois, the son of Mexican immigrant parents. Jay excelled in athletics in high school, then enlisted in the Navy in 1966, becoming a frogman (the precursor to the Navy SEALs). In late 1967-early 1968 he participated in operations off the coast of northern South Vietnam. Castro returned to Vietnam in mid-1969, this time serving for fifteen months on a river patrol boat in South Vietnam's delta region. During that tour Castro was wounded once and received two bronze stars. After his service in Vietnam, Castro became an artist, and also joined a SEAL Team in the U.S. Navy Reserves.