Austin

Roberto Chapa


By Joshua Leighton

When Roberto Chapa enlisted in the United States Army on December 2, 1942, he had no idea how much this decision would alter the rest of his life.

Though the war was thousands of miles away in Europe and Asia, Chapa, from the border town of Roma, Texas, was one of thousands of Mexican Americans to participate in the war and later to take advantage of the educational benefits created for veterans.

Ladislao Catalino Castro


By Alan K. Davis

From their crippled B-24 bomber, Ladislao "L.C." Castro and the rest of the crew could see the white cliffs of Dover across the English Channel, on March 18, 1944. The fuel gauges read empty. The control cables were severed. And a 4-foot section of the left wing was missing.

The bomber began a slow downward spiral toward occupied France; there was no way to make it back to England.

When the orders came to abandon the bomber, Castro was the first out. With his leg torn and bleeding, Castro jumped through a hatch in the rear of the bomber.

Manuel Martinez Castillo


By Chandler Elise Race

As Manuel Castillo stood on the landing barge off of Omaha Beach in Normandy, the battle was already in full motion on shore. For Castillo, the reality of the landing was not the glorified or stirring depictions of the movies: real lives were being lost. Fathers, brothers and uncles were being killed. The memories of those days in 1943 still affect Castillo today.

Peter Casarez


By Joanne R. Sánchez

Pete Casarez's fondest childhood memory was playing baseball with his brothers, Frank, Eugene and Frutoso (Tuto) at the Catholic church playground, a half block from their home on East 9th Street in Austin, Texas.

"We were always together," he said of his brothers and himself.

Eugene Ramirez Casarez


By Joanne Rao Sánchez

Eugene Casarez was just 11 years old when he started working for the Surprise Bakery on E. 7th Street in Austin, Texas.

Little did he realize that his four years of making empanadas, pan de huevo and bizcochitos would one day be tapped by the U.S. Army after he was drafted in 1944.

"They looked at my records, and said, 'We need you in the kitchen....'," Casarez said.

Lalo Campos


The yellow clapboard house with the 1990 Cadillac Seville parked outside is Lalo Campos' home. A Mexican American World War II veteran, he sits in a study that is covered with family portraits with his feet propped up in his walker. There is a distinct smell of Terra-gesic cream, similar to Ben-Gay, in the air -- which he uses to ease the pain in his feet. Campos has been a diabetic for 20 years and in 1992 the diabetes severed the nerve ends on his feet, which has made it very painful to walk.

Campos has come a long way in 75 years; he has even been around the world.

Ernesto Calderón


By Miguel A. Castro

Ernesto Calderon was just 18 years old and living in Central Texas in 1946 when his life took an unexpected turn.

Eldon and Lloyd Adams, two brothers, asked him if he wanted to go with him to the drive-in theater at the Circle, a well-known part of Waco.

"On the way (to the drive-in theater), he (Eldon) said he had just joined the 11th Airborne Division and would I be interested in going with him," Calderon said. "And I mean, just like that, I said sure and I agreed to it."