By Michael Trevino
Following his brothers' example of taking a stand against a foreign power and volunteering for the military, Ezequiel Hernandez enlisted in the Armed Forces as a teenager.
"When I turned 18, none of my brothers were home so I joined," Hernandez said.
Hernandez was born in Mackay, Texas, 140 miles southwest of Dallas, on April 18, 1924, to Candelario and Manuela Mendez Ramirez Hernandez. Candelario fought in the Mexican Revolution. One of his father’s contributions, Hernandez recalls, was stealing a mine train and loading it with men to fight, thus playing a major role in the transportation of troops.
Young Hernandez worked in the fields with Candelario, who was a sharecropper for a Texas landowner. Hernandez spent much of his free time playing baseball. He says his uncle, Felix Ramirez, was an exceptional pitcher and was offered a job with the Chicago White Sox.
"My uncle turned down the job because he didn't want give up his other job that paid $65 a week," Hernandez said.
Hernandez and his siblings attended school, but he never graduated from high school. Instead, he chose to work with his father to help his family have a steady source of income.
At 15, the Hernandez family moved to Houston. Hernandez worked in the farmers' market until he was 18. Then, on July 10, 1942, he volunteered for the Army.
"I wasn't really afraid of being drafted," Hernandez said. "I don't think I had enough sense to not join."
Hernandez was the last of his brothers, Tony, Elias and Joel, to join the military.
"I put down that I wanted to be in the Air Force, but they never told which branch I was going into," Hernandez said. "When I saw some tanks, I realized I was in the Army."
Hernandez managed to avoid combat throughout his tenure with the Army. He earned the rank of Corporal, training troops for three years. He remained in the United States until 1945, when he was shipped to Normandy, France. Since he arrived at the end of war, he says he and his company had relatively little to do except guard some of the German prisoners.
"We didn't do too much," Hernandez said. "I remember we played a lot of baseball."
While stationed in France, Hernandez won a drawing for a trip to England, which he says turned out to be his most memorable experience while in the service. Hernandez arrived in London at Headquarters, U.S. Army ILO, and received word that his brother, Elias, was in Ipswich, England. The command center allowed Hernandez to travel to Ipwich. Happy to see his brother, the two went back to London.
As the war ended, Hernandez returned to France and, miraculously, found another brother, Joel, in the barracks.
Hernandez was discharged in August of 1946, although he remained in the reserves.
He went to the University of Houston after the war to become an auto mechanic. Jobs were hard to find in the late 1940s. In 1950, however, he was recalled to the military during the Korean War, where he served in the 1008th Engineer Service Battalion as a welder. He traveled through Europe and his final discharge was in 1951.
Upon his return, Hernandez married Linda Guzman in 1952. Together, they have five children: Richard, Rachel, Veronica, James and Elsa.
Hernandez spent many years in the upholstery business. He learned the trade from a friend he met in the service. While working for his friend, they upholstered airplanes and various automobiles. Later, Hernandez opened his own shop, but closed the business after little success. A few years later, he opened a Texaco station, which he ran for eight years. But due to the long hours and constant threat of robberies, Hernandez decided to get out of the endeavor.
In 1978, he started to inspect cars for proper state safety regulations. After many years, Hernandez opened his own auto safety inspection service, which he owned until his retirement. He handed the business over to his daughter, Veronica.
Mr. Hernandez was interviewed in Houston, Texas, on May 11, 2004, by Paul R. Zepeda and Ernest Eguia.