Austin

Gloria Lerma Rodriguez


By Stephanie M. Jacksis

The United States should have let the Vietnamese fight their own battle during the Vietnam War, said Gloria Lerma Rodriguez.

Among many other bizarre aspects of the war, which left many “mentally disturbed,” Lerma Rodriguez said, American soldiers at times slept with allies and enemies in the same foxhole.

“It was terrible, using innocent children with grenades hidden under their clothes. Very unjust. Thanks to God it’s over,” she said.

Charlie Ericksen


By Jordan Strassner

Charlie Ericksen spent most of his adult life creating a strong bond with Mexican-Americans, writing news stories and columns about them, and advocating for better treatment for that community.

Seferino Nino Gonzales


By Diana Pena

Sitting in front of a disassembled cuckoo clock, Seferino Nino Gonzales’ demeanor gave little hint that he was a veteran of at least two wars, which he described as a “very pleasant experience.”

At the time of his interview, Gonzales worked on clocks in his own shop in Austin, Texas. But for 27 years he traveled the world, thanks to his service in the U.S. Air Force.

Fernando & Mrs. Gloria Rodriguez


By Joseph Muller

Unlike many U.S. military veterans who served in Southeast Asia during the 1960s, Fernando Rodriguez did not see a Vietnamese battlefield, even though he volunteered to fight more than once.

The closest that the Defense Intelligence Agency veteran got to the Southeast Asian nation was Nakhon Phanom, in Thailand, as part of the many international travels he made during a distinguished 26-year career in the Air Force.

"I did really want to go," said Rodriguez of going to the Vietnam War, "to see what it was all about."

Richard Brito


By Priscilla Pelli

Missing the birth of his two daughters was one of the many sacrifices Richard Brito had to make when he saw that a war threatened the national security of the United States in 1965.

While Vietnam spurred controversy among many Americans throughout the 1960s, Brito said he saw it as a calling to help protect the security of the nation during a time of distress and turmoil.

“I loved the military,” Brito said. “That's what I wanted to do all my life.”

Gabriel Garcia


By Ruben Espinoza

When Gabriel Garcia left his family’s home in Mercedes for Army basic training in the summer of 1952, it was the first time he had ever been away from South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

California’s Camp Roberts was very different from his father's farm fields, where he could soak in the dense, warm Texas evenings. But he was excited to see other parts of the world.

Pete Castillo


By Lynda Gonzalez

Pedro “Pete” Castillo used his snow-white mustache as a tool in telling his wartime tale, one of the significant chapters of his life.

A sergeant and World War II veteran was in charge of Castillo’s Army company during the Korean War, and he demanded Castillo and his Latino friend shave off their mustaches because, he said, the Army did not like facial hair, Castillo recalled.

Neftali L. Zendejas


By Layne Victoria Lynch

As 80-year-old Neftali L. Zendejas looked back on the memories of his childhood before his service in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, he reminisced about how he knew he wanted to work with aircrafts at an early age.

Way back when his father was working the farm of a Japanese family that had been sent to an internment camp during World War II, Zendejas said he ventured into a nearby airfield, to admire a Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft.

Luis J. Landin


By Brett Alexander

"When you get ambushed, you're supposed to get killed."

That's what the Army tells every soldier during training, Luis Landin said.

"But for me," he added, "my life consisted of events that weren't normal, so I knew what I had to do when the chips were down."

Odilon De Leon


By Jonathan Damrich

Odilon De Leon wore his Purple Heart in the middle of his cap, right below the spot where it read “Okinawa 1945.”

“I’m proud and happy that I served my country,” De Leon said, “even though I was disabled at the ripe old age of 17.”

The World War II veteran was badly burned May 3, 1945, when a Japanese plane flew into the port side of his ship, the USS LSMR-195, approximately 100 miles away from Okinawa.

The ship was carrying about 465 rockets, he said, which combined with the gasoline in the plane to create a “hellacious explosion.”