San Antonio

Felipe de Ortego y Gasca

By Nathan Batoon

Felipe Ortego was a high school dropout in 1943, but after joining the Marine Corps and serving in the Pacific Theater, he’d awakened a new passion: writing. And that passion would imbue him with a new identity.

“The Marine Corps helped me, changed me a lot,” Ortego said. “From having a sense of invisibility to how vulnerable we were as human beings.”

Ortego was born in Blue Island, Ill., as his parents were traveling between San Antonio, Texas, and the sugar beet fields of Minnesota. He failed first and fourth grade because of language.

Alex Rodriguez

As a little boy, Alex Rodriguez, Jr. never understood why so many people who know his father, Alex Rodriguez, treated him with the utmost respect.

Later in life, while reading his father’s accounts as an infantryman in the European Theater during World War II, and, later, a prisoner of war in a German camp, Alex began to understand.

Although Rodriguez Sr. passed away in 2006, his son knows he’d be glad his story will finally be known.

Maria Cristina Parra

By Adrienne Lee

Maria Cristina [Pozos] Parra knows few details about World War II outside the stories her husband, Ambrosio Parra, chose to tell her, and a wound on his foot that left him in pain for the rest of his life. As she put it: “He told me a little bit, but he didn’t like to talk about [it].

Maria Pozos and Ambrosio Parra met in the mid-1940s at Randolph Air Force Base – located in Universal City, Texas, just outside San Antonio – when her supervisor asked her to escort Ambrosio, the new employee, to the base’s machine shop. Five years later, they got married.

Guadalupe Rodriguez Flores

By Jeffrey McWhorter

Morning broke as the train rolled into Texarkana, Texas.

“Now don’t close your eyes,” the porter admonished a 22-year-old Bertha Flores, “because we’re getting close … and we’ll pass it real fast.”

For the past twenty-four hours, the eager young woman had asked the porter the same question every hour: “Where are we?” And each time she received the same patient reply, “Still in Texas.”

Julian Medina

By Pierre Bertrand

It seems as if Army infantryman Julian Medina, who was drafted in 1943, was on the frontlines of every major World War II European campaign, from the Normandy Invasion to the Battle of the Bulge.

“I was in every fight. I was in every battle,” said Medina, who was part of the Army’s 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division in 1943.

His European service began in Scotland, where he was among thousands of American soldiers being trained for amphibious assaults.

Francisco Vega

By Michelle Witters

San Antonio native Francisco Vega survived D-Day on Omaha Beach unscathed. That’s not to say he didn’t suffer acute pain later during the war, however.

Frances Correa Reyes

By Danielle WIlson

Frances Reyes has understood the inherently difficult nature of life since childhood. Raised in the late 1920s, she and her family could only afford to buy beans and rice consistently at the neighborhood store. They depended on charity for the rest of their food.

“We had to walk 10 blocks to this place and we would go over there and get whatever they gave us,” said Reyes of how they managed to get flour, sugar, powdered milk and other essentials.

Willie L. Moreno

By Sara Delarosa

When Willie Luna Moreno entered the Armed Forces in April of 1943, he was only 19.

Moreno began basic training at Camp Robinson in Arkansas, and later in Massachusetts and Maryland. Afterward, he went to England, France and Germany.

Starting as a Private First Class, he was involved in the infantry and military police, as well as the 1st Infantry Division, nicknamed Big Red One partially due to a shoulder patch emblazoned with a red numeral “1.” As a part of Big Red One, Moreno was in Omaha Beach, Normandy, on D-Day.

Alfred P. Flores

By Soren Silkenson

When Alfred P. Flores was 16, his brother Robert, was lost in an early guided missile attack that sank his ship, the Rohna, three miles off the coast of Italy.

The sinking in the Mediterranean of the British troop transport vessel on Nov. 26, 1943, killed more than 1,000 U.S. troops in one of the worst losses of U.S. maritime history.

Details of the disaster were initially shrouded in military secrecy. Flores was determined to help find his brother but was told he was too young to enlist. Shortly after turning 17, he was finally allowed.

Hortense Mota Gallardo

By Alicia Downard

When Hortense Mota Gallardo recalls her childhood growing up in Depression-era San Antonio, Texas, she remembers the generosity of her father, Bartollo Mota, and how he not only provided for his own family, but for strangers in need of help.

“Daddy had a big heart,” Gallardo said. “We were supposed to share what we had – even if it was just a little bit.”