San Antonio

Ramiro Castro

By Roxanne Telles, California State University, Fullerton

After dropping out of high school, Ramiro Castro was working as an electrician when he was drafted in 1943 into the U.S. Army during World War II. He would go on to use his expertise as part of his service--working with engineers and installing electrical services wherever they were needed.

Herlinda Gutierrez

By Teresita Amaya, California State University, Fullerton

What began as a harmless bet led to the opportunity of a lifetime for U.S. Air Force veteran Herlinda Gutierrez - "I enlisted on a dare," she said.

Gutierrez remembered one day she and the girls at work were imagining what their lives could be if they were in the military, although it was something of a longshot. Not only were they all nurses but, aside from Gutierrez, most of them were also married and had children.

Juan F. Guajardo

By Anna Kavich

For Juan Guajardo, life before and after Vietnam was just as traumatic as the five months he spent overseas. From growing up surrounded by gang fights to struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, the decorated U.S. Army veteran, who would become a leader of the Brown Berets and a civil rights advocate in San Antonio, continuously fought for his health and happiness at home.

Adan Daniel "Dan" Arellano

By Jennifer Monsees

Once a migrant worker, Dan Arellano became a realtor; once a struggling student he turned into an author. Arellano had a way of taking life’s difficult lessons and making the most of them.

The Navy veteran used the discrimination he experienced as a Mexican American to fuel his desire to teach history so that others do not repeat the mistakes.

Rodolfo Hernandez

By Jordyn Davenport

Although Rodolfo Hernandez never saw the frontline of battle, World War II was an exciting time for him.

That’s because Hernandez performed with his family’s informal entertainment troupe as a singer nicknamed Charro Azul, for the blue suit he wore on stage.

Pedro Gomez Soto

By Frank Trejo Jr.

Pedro Gomez Soto knew the importance of making the most of what life gives you. He was fond of saying that experiences “grow you up.”

And they certainly did for Soto, who started working as a boy with other migrants in the fields and went on to honorably serve his country during World War II. In addition, he continued to make contributions to his family and community long after his military service.

Alfred A. De La Cruz

By Donnie Hogan

Alfred Antonio De La Cruz made $2 per week working as a radio technician, while the military paid $17 per month, so joining the Army was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

De La Cruz says he has always had a passion for gaining knowledge and a determination to never be complacent. Growing up poor in San Antonio, Texas, he recalls his parents insisting he get an education and strive to be the best at whatever profession or trade he went into.

Mary Espiritu

By Rebecca Millner

In more than 40 years of service, Mary Espiritu De Leon received at least 45 awards and honors, recognizing her commitment to San Antonio's Latino community, and especially its women.

Her role as a spokeswoman and advocate grew out of her own struggle to succeed as a professional Latina at a time when her ethnicity and gender were considered strikes against her.

"I always wanted better for myself than just being a mother and a housewife," Espiritu said. "I wanted a good job, to move ahead and improve myself, regardless of whether I was a Latina."

Erasmo G. Lopez

By Cheryl Smith Kemp

Erasmo G. Lopez spent a good chunk of his twenties on the front lines of battle, both in World War II and the Korean War.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Lopez was drafted into the Army in 1942 at the age of 20.

“If I hadn’t of gone, they would have taken me,” he half-joked in Spanish.

In Germany, where Uncle Sam sent Lopez’s regiment, the 335th Infantry, part of the 84th Division, after maneuvers training in Lake Charles, La., Lopez was in, among other fights, the Battle of the Bulge.

Andrew Guzman

By David Muto

When Andrew E. Guzman tried to enlist in the Marines at 18, he was turned away and told to wait for the draft.

With remorse, Guzman said he’s fortunate he didn’t enlist on that day in 1944. Otherwise, he believed he likely would have been sent to the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, the site of one of World War II’s bloodiest battles.

“I was lucky that I wasn’t accepted,” he said.