Houston

John Edward Martinez


By Tarrah Miller

“It’s a neat experience because you get to meet people from all over the United States, and we are working for the common good and a common goal.”

That’s how John Martinez described his service aboard a submarine. But that experience was only one element of the larger personal significance he felt for his service in the U.S. Navy.

Ben R. Saenz


By Gilbert Song

Bernardino "Ben" Saenz Jr. arrived in Vietnam to the sound of sirens and pitch black darkness in May 1969, just five months after he was drafted. The smell was terrible, he recalled.

"I knew I was in the real stuff when I saw the bodies," Saenz said. "That's the worst smell, seeing a dead body that had been there months decaying. I remember pulling the arm of one and I got maggots all over me." Enemy graves had to be dug up to see if weapons or food were buried under them, he added.

John Reyes


By Julie Rene Tran

The deep scar on his right arm, a slash made by a Viet Cong fighter’s knife, became barely visible. His eyebrows grew back and missing flesh on his calves, vestiges of a mortar attack, filled in. The upper lip, the one that “fluttered” after that same firefight, again formed a natural smile.

John Reyes Jr.’s physical marks from the Vietnam War healed; the profound impact of the war and life in the Marines weighed on him long afterward.

Richard G. Perez


By Alexandra Loucel

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Richard Perez, the son of a World War II veteran, was in Vietnam for three months, from December 1966 to February 1967. But those three months altered his life forever and led him to advocate for other veterans in his hometown of Houston.

William Zermeno


By Yiyi Jennifer Yang

It took a war for William Zermeno to leave his hometown, Houston, and his beloved family. The Zermeno family shared a very close bond -- the brothers, particularly, would play and hang out together even as they grew older.

“We got along well. We played tag, hide-and-seek, rolled tires, made cars out of clay, and played army,” Zermeno said. “My parents were really strict, but very loving and kind. They always advised us to be good students in school.”

Wilfred Navarro


By Brittany Wilson

After getting discharged from the Navy in 1948, Wilfred Navarro, Jr. returned to his hometown of Houston. He finished high school and decided he’d like to be a police officer. But first, he and other Latino veterans would have to overcome institutional racism.

Navarro was the third Latino officer hired by the Houston Police Department and would go on to serve for nearly five decades in many capacities, including high-level administration. His wife, influenced by her husband’s example, would later become a police officer.

Jesus G. Reyes


By Cynthia Agnew

Jesus "Jesse" Reyes, an accomplished shoe repairman, painter and World War II veteran, describes his Army experience as a life-altering phenomenon that helped him become the man he is today. The will to fight for his life when on the front line in Germany taught him that all good things come from hard work and perseverance.

George Salmerón


By Rajesh Reddy

George Salmerón grew up hearing how his father was forced to serve in the Mexican Army at age 13 in the early 1900s.

"[My father] saw a bunch of soldiers coming around with a little drum, single-file. All of a sudden, they stopped in front of him. They made a circle completely around him, and they took him off to the Army," Salmerón said. "He was then officially recruited in the Army of Porfirio Diaz."

Leopold Rodriguez Moreno


By Kelly Tarleton

The thought of failure has never deterred Leopold Rodriguez Moreno from his goals.

Moreno says he was the first Mexican American to be sent to West Virginia as an inspector for the Southern Pacific Railroad Co.

He met Rosa Villagomez, the woman of his dreams, and decided he’d marry her. Six years later, he did.

But Moreno says one of his most important accomplishments is having survived a gunshot wound in the back during the Battle of Luzon in World War II.

Agustin Louis Hernandez


By Connor Higgins

Agusti¬n Louis Hernandez's life has been one of service: to his country as an engineer/gunner on a B-24, to his community as a firefighter and lawman for 37 years, and to his family as a husband and father.

And as a retiree in Houston at the age of 81, he still struggles today with what is right and what is wrong in war and how it squares with his religious beliefs.