Mexico

Carlota Ayala Ortega


By Angela Walker

Dr. Carlota Ayala-Ortega sits proudly by as husband Guadalupe Ortega recalls his memories from World War II.

Guadalupe recalls the time the owner of a museum learned of his many medals earned in combat, and told him "I'll make a hero out of you."

Guadalupe quickly answered, "I am a hero, I have been for years, and I don't tell anybody."

Ortega smiles and nods her head in agreement.

Many would say she’s a hero in her own right.

Anna Torres Vazquez


By Callie Jenschke

Unlike many other Latino World War II veterans who often found themselves in a minority during their military service, Roberto Vazquez says he seldom felt the brunt of discrimination as a soldier in his division, where he was one of 7,000 Hispanics fighting shoulder to shoulder against the German army.

Trinidad Ayala Nerio


By Lauren Smith

From a troubled first marriage to surviving alone with her three kids while her second husband, Arnold, served in the Army for two years, Trinidad Nerio has learned to take the good with the bad.

"Life is life," Nerio said. "We've had a good life. Arnold is a good man ... the best in Saginaw."

Nerio was born in 1918 in Piedras Negras, Mexico, part of a family of 10 children -- six boys and four girls. When she was 6, the family moved to Texas for two years, where the children learned to speak English.

Francisco Guerra


By In-Young Kim

Francisco Guerra still doesn't understand why people had to kill each other during World War II. And he says he doesn’t believe in wars anymore.

Guerra remembers the harrowing days he spent on Omaha Beach during the 1944 Normandy campaign. He recalls the high casualties as United States forces took Normandy. He witnessed intense combat, as German gunfire from enemy positions on high ground ripped American units apart.

One memory vividly sticks with him to this day -- the day a fellow soldier was struck by German machine-gun fire.

Luis Leyva


By Monica Flores

Feeling like a full-fledged American despite lacking a U.S. birth certificate, Luis Leyva never let his Mexican citizenship status affect his dedication to his adopted homeland.

Robert Leyva


By Andrea R. Williams

In the midst of conflict, Robert Leyva sometimes would think the enemy troops killed in World War II could have been among his friends in another time and place. This kind of love of mankind is a mainstay in Leyva's life.

Leyva was born into poverty in Chihuahua, Mexico, on May 10, 1915, to parents who were poor farm laborers. At age three, he's been told, Leyva's father, Jesus, left the family. At the age of five, his mother, Justina Ovalles Leyva, took his brother, Jesus, and sister, Justina, to El Paso, Texas.

Guadalupe Hernandez


By Nikki Muñoz

The son of a laborer, Lupe Hernandez has been defined by the concept of hard work, having spent much of his childhood alongside his father in the fields.

Hernandez's parents, Guadalupe Hernandez and Isidora Garza Hernandez, moved to the border town of McAllen, Texas, from Mexico in 1918. After having immigrated to Texas, his mother was visiting relatives in Mexico and gave birth to Hernandez in Reynosa, Mexico, where his grandmother lived.

Hernandez has many memories of his childhood, but mostly he recalls working with his father in the fields.

William Henry Todd


By Katie Gibson

For William Henry Todd, enlisting in the National Guard and serving during World War II transformed him from a child to a man.

"The Army was a school for me. It taught me many things," Todd said. "When I joined the National Guard, I didn't have anything ... to call my own.

"For the first time in my life, I was standing on my own two feet.”

Ruben Munguia


By Guillermo X. Garcia

Ruben Mungia, a career printer, laughs as he recalls "how smart the U.S. Army was" to let him join the service in the middle of World War II, only to assign him to Randolph Field in San Antonio, his hometown, where he ran the print shop at headquarters command.

Raúl A Chávez


By Amy Bauer

Aside from a move at 8 months of age, Raul Chavez had never traveled more than the 20 miles from Los Angeles to Catalina Island.

Born on Valentine's Day in 1926 in Chihuahua, Mexico, Chavez moved to East L.A. when he was an infant, during the Great Depression. His father, also named Raul, was a volunteer lieutenant in the California Militia State Guard and, thus, contributed to the war effort.

"I remember when I was going [to war] myself; he got a broomstick out and taught me the Manual of Arms," Chavez said.