KS

Johnnie Ramos Gonsalez


By Alyson Espino

Johnnie Gonsalez can't recall much of his time serving in the military, but he remembers how grateful he was to make it back home alive.

Born in the small city of Florence, Kansas, Gonsalez grew up with three brothers and two sisters. He boxed with his brothers for fun in the backyard and stuck closely to his mother and father. By the sixth grade, Gonsalez had dropped out of school and begun working as a flagman on the railroad lines with his father.

Although he grew up during the Great Depression, he never felt it hit home.

Solomen M Rangel


By Caroline Flores

He may only have had an eighth-grade education, but Solomen Rangel knew to stand up for his beliefs and how to get ahead. He not only enlisted and became a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, he later fought employment discrimination on the home front.

Miguel Morado


By Sarah Griffin

While he sat in his foxhole, 23-year-old Mike Morado was scared and cold, and wondering if he would survive World War II or even make it to his 24th birthday.

Little did he know that his moment of fear and apprehension would become a pivotal event that would shape the way he lived the rest of his life. Because of that moment, Morado decided to devote the rest of his life to doing volunteer work. He said his experiences in WWII taught him to appreciate life and give back to society as much as he could.

Ben Santillan


By Nicole Chisum

The turmoil of World War II was difficult for everyone who endured it, but perhaps even more so for people who felt left out of mainstream society.

People like Ben Santillan.

Santillan was born on Feb. 13, 1925, near Kansas City, Kan. When he was about 7 years old, his family moved to Argentine, a suburb of Kansas City, and lived in the Mexican part of the town known as el campo. It was far from luxurious, and it was segregated -- Mexicans and non-Mexicans.

Ricardo Leon Martinez


By Mosettee Lorenz

By the time he was 22, Kansas native Ricardo León Martinez had dropped out of high school, gotten married and had four children, and he was at risk of going to prison for fighting and drinking.

But when he headed for Vietnam in the mid-1960s, he found a new perspective. In the years after the war, Martinez returned to school, got a college education and worked for the federal government for 34 years.

Roque John Riojas


By Maxx Scholten

Gunning down loose poultry with his military-issued M1 rifle just to savor the sweet taste of fried chicken and collecting cowpie patties to burn to keep away the nip of mosquitoes -- these are some of the memories Roque Riojas has of his time with the 135th Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, fighting in Africa and Italy during World War II.

Delfino Jose Guerrero


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

For World War II veteran Delfino Guerrero, who grew up in the urban jungle of Chicago during The Great Depression, three of the big “musts” in life were speak Spanish at home, English at school and the Boys Club; run around acting tough with friends from “the neighborhood;” and correct anyone who disrespects you.

“That’s the way it was,” said Guerrero, who was an Army medic with the 38th Infantry Division in the Pacific Theater from December of 1941 to Dec. 5, 1945.

Mac Ortega Salazar


By Christina Rucker

Born Feb. 28, 1925, World War II veteran Mac Salazar grew up the youngest of 13 children in Kansas City, Kan.. He calls himself and his siblings "Depression babies," but says they lived well, always having enough tortillas, frijoles and soup to get by.

It wasn't long before Salazar was heading to the classroom.

"I remember the first day of school. They took me and they left me in the kindergarten there," Salazar said. "I can remember who took me, who I saw and I can remember a girl there."

Val Martinez


By Emma Graves-Fitzsimmons

Nothing prepared Val Martinez for the icy winter night he landed in Marseilles, France, with the 103rd Infantry Division to prepare for combat in World War II. Martinez would spend more than nine months as a tank commander advancing across Central Europe, but says the first night was the coldest he can remember.

His unit and their German adversaries were both under constant fire as each tried to gain ground on the other, he recalls.

"Once we got going, we spent a lot of time chasing them," Martinez said. "Our outfit was a good outfit."

Lorenza Terrones Lujano


By Katie Woody

Lorenza Terrones Lujano has battled prejudice, assumed a traditionally male role as an athlete and worked diligently to send all four of her children to college, an opportunity she never had.