Leonard Vara Fuentes


Even after flying several successful missions over Italy during WWII, Leonard Fuentes was prepared to continue serving his country, and remained in the military after the war, serving in Korea.

Fuentes graduated from high school and wanted to attend trade school, so he began working odd jobs near Kelly Field and began saving for his education. After Pearl Harbor, Fuentes was compelled to join the war effort.

Oscar Torres

By Reid Worth

In June of 2002, 58 years after the battle in which he earned it, Oscar Torres finally received the Purple Heart for wounds received in action during the September 1944 assault on the island of Peleliu. In addition to earning that medal after being drafted in 1943, Torres, a Marine, witnessed a great deal of carnage on the tiny South Pacific Island.

Despite being drafted, Torres wasn’t reluctant to serve his country. He hadn't enlisted because his two older brothers had already done so; Torres simply stayed behind to help his family until he was called.

Emma Falcon Tamez

By Karina Valenzuela

The Falcon family's military service extends beyond four brothers' time in World War II.

Juan Meza

By Ignacio Laguarda

It was New Year's Eve in 1944 when Soldier First Class Juan Meza discovered Germans had occupied an abandoned college in France -- the same building where he and five other soldiers were resting.

"We were directing the artillery to shoot where we knew they were giving us more battles," Meza said.

He and the other soldiers were there for a week, five or 10 kilometers in front of battle, serving as observers.

Maria Sally Salazar

By Therese Glenn

When Maria Sally Salazar illegally enlisted into the Army, she dreamed of traveling the world. She didn’t imagine, however, that her service would lead to six months in the hospital recovering from multiple illnesses and watching the end of World War II from bed.

"The war in '41 woke us up," Salazar said. "Everyone was talking about it. Everyone wanted to go."

Antonia Meza

By Rachel Gor

In Antonia Meza's day, girls had chaperones accompany them on dates and stayed home with their mothers to make tortillas. Today, Meza's own granddaughters spend entire weekends with their boyfriends, and even she buys tortillas from the grocery store.

These are only a couple of ways in which traditions have changed from the WWII generation to the present.

Eduardo Botello

By Xochitl Salazar

On Friday, Oct. 13, 1944, the 79th Infantry Division was in its 23rd day of battle against German forces in the eastern part of Alsace-Lorraine, France.

Eduardo Botello, in a platoon of 27 men, walked slowly and carefully through the town of Embermenil searching for the enemy, when, suddenly, a mortar shell hit 8 feet behind them. The shell broke into many small fragments. Botello felt one wound to the left side of his neck. A second hit, to the back of his left thigh, was discovered later.

Ascención Ambros Cortez

By Clara Obregón

Ascención Ambros Cortez can't help but cry when she thinks of the sacrifices her brother, Enrique Ambros, and husband, Hernan Cortez, Sr., made for their country during World War II. Her husband lost his right hand and her brother paid the ultimate price -- his life. Both gladly volunteered to serve their country, she remembers.

Cortez was one of seven children born to Gaspar and Dominga Ambros in Laredo, Texas. Gaspar died from a head injury after falling off a horse in 1933, leaving Dominga widowed with seven children.

Alfredo Castro

Alfred Castro was the son of an accomplished musician, who recognized early that Alfred had a natural gift and did all he could to foster the boy’s musical growth.

Andres Arredondo

By Valerie Venegas

Andres Arredondo dealt with adversity throughout his life. He overcome the death of his father at an early age and endured the torture of being a prisoner of war during World War II. Yet, through it all, he has managed to remain humble.

Arredondo’s POW memories are from the days he was forced to work in fields near Luxembourg in the middle of winter. He remembers the bitter cold and the pain he suffered in a cramped cell.