By Karina Valenzuela
Elvira Orta Pardo Lopez's memories of World War II revolve around her brother, Apolonio “Polo” Pardo, Jr., whom she describes as a quiet and serious man.
Polo got as far as the fifth grade before quitting to work on the family farm. Their parents, Apolonio Pardo, Sr. and Felipa Orta Pardo, had emigrated from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and settled in Goliad, Texas, where they raised three sons and three daughters. All of the children participated in the harvesting of cotton, corn and beans.
Later, the family moved to Elsa, in South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, as there were more opportunities for work, Lopez recalls.
Like many others during the war, 21-year-old Polo was called to service by the Army. Lopez remembers her brother went to basic training at Fort Knox in Kentucky and was later sent to Europe and Northern Africa, where combat injuries earned him the Purple Heart.
Lopez couldn’t recall for certain how her brother was injured, but she thinks he suffered a wound to the face.
"I remember that when we spoke, he told me his nose wouldn't look right," she said.
During this time, Lopez cared for her father and brother, José Pío Pardo. Her mother died in February of 1940 due to complications from pneumonia, so only the three of them remained at home, as Lopez’s other siblings were married and Polo was overseas. Lopez recalls she was in charge of cooking and running errands.
When the war finally ended, Lopez says her family didn't celebrate in any special way. Instead, they were simply relieved that Polo would return home. A cousin, Rogelio Pardo, died in the war and was buried in Europe.
"He never returned," Lopez said.
Later, on March 30, 1947, Polo married Romana Layton, of Elsa, and they eventually had five children. He moved his immediate family to Detroit, Mich., along with his father and two of his brothers. There, Polo worked as a bricklayer for Great Lakes Steel.
His nephew, Wilfredo Pardo Lopez, recalls his uncle left for Detroit in order to find new jobs.
"The jobs in Elsa had grown scarce right after the war," Wilfredo wrote to the Project.
On Aug. 19, 1960, Polo was murdered in a case of mistaken identity, leaving behind his wife and five children. Wilfredo says his uncle died as a soldier would, brave and fighting until the end.
Polo’s widow, Romana, says her husband hoped to provide a better life for his children. All five of them -- Maria, Delma, Rene, Nelda and Paul Mark -- have their own careers.
Lopez eventually married Alonzo Lopez and had six children: Alonzo Jr., Raudel, Raymundo, Noemi, Wilfredo and Adrian.
Lopez says that after the war, opportunities increased for Mexican Americans as a result of the sacrifices many like Polo made serving their country.
Mrs. Lopez was interviewed in Edinburg, Texas, on June 20, 2003, by her son, Wilfredo Pardo Lopez.