Austin

Pedro Perez


By Suzanne Hanshaw

It was the afternoon of April 30, 1945, on the Philippine island of Luzon. The first scout of the attacking squad had been shot and Pedro Perez volunteered to rescue him in a hail of machine-gun fire. Even after Perez was wounded in both legs, he crawled through the brush, sparing both their lives.

It would be a miserable 7 hours before he received medical attention.

“It was about 3 o’clock in the afternoon … and I bled from there until after 10 at night,” Perez said.

Virgilio G. Roel


By Stacy Nelson

Post-World War II brought what Virgilio G. Roel termed "The Golden Era" for Mexican Americans.

"With the GI Bill, for the first time in the history of our country, and our ethnic experience, Mexican Americans had the opportunity to attend colleges and universities all over the United States" Roel said.

For more than six decades he was involved in the betterment of the social, labor, economic, educational and political advancement of Mexican Americans, and, later, Latinos in general, as well as other minority men, women and young people.

Eladio Martinez


When Eladio Martinez was growing up in Dallas, Texas, education was a priority. His father was a laborer and inspired his children to learn. Like his three younger siblings, Martinez graduated from Dallas Technical High School. Growing up, the Martinez children enjoyed outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting.

Andres Ybarra


By Jennifer Lindgren

"That's a picture of my great-granddaughter," said 81-year-old veteran Andres Ybarra, admiringly pointing out photographs in his home. "That's a picture of my -- all my grandkids and myself over there. And that one over there is when I was in the Army at Fort Jackson."

In the Army photograph, a younger Ybarra looked dignified and handsome in uniform. He fought at Normandy in World War II. A gentle-voiced, polite man wearing large dark-rimmed glasses, he gestured animatedly when talking about his war experiences.

Harold Valderas


By Courtney Mahaffey

On Dec. 7, 1941, Harold Valderas, then a senior at George Washington High School in New York City, was doing his homework while listening to the radio when he heard the report about Pearl Harbor.

"Little did I realize, before long, I'd be in the service myself," Valderas said.

In the spring of 1942, at the age of 18, Valderas dropped out of high school early to enlist in the Army Air Corp Cadet Program. (There wasn’t a draft for 18- year-olds at the time.)

Aurora Estrada Orozco


By Desirée Mata

Aurora Estrada Orozco was only about 4 years old when she came to the United States due to the unrest in Mexico. Her father, Lorenzo Estrada, worked as a bookkeeper at an American gold, silver and coal mining company in Serralvo, Nuevo Leon, until Pancho Villa's men started sabotaging production. The company, known to Orozco only as "La Fundacion," decided to leave and offered Lorenzo a position in Mercedes, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley.

Juan Lujan


By Joel Weickgenant

As a 20-year-old at the end of 1942, Juan Lujan remembers thinking World War II was passing him by. He wanted to participate in the war effort, but he’d promised his mother he wouldn't volunteer.

In the end, it was a promise Lujan wasn’t able to keep.

"I was afraid the war would be over, and I would not get the chance to go," he said.

Lujan got his wish in November of 1942, when he was drafted into the Army, rendering his promise to his mother moot.

Eduardo Botello


By Xochitl Salazar

On Friday, Oct. 13, 1944, the 79th Infantry Division was in its 23rd day of battle against German forces in the eastern part of Alsace-Lorraine, France.

Eduardo Botello, in a platoon of 27 men, walked slowly and carefully through the town of Embermenil searching for the enemy, when, suddenly, a mortar shell hit 8 feet behind them. The shell broke into many small fragments. Botello felt one wound to the left side of his neck. A second hit, to the back of his left thigh, was discovered later.

Manuel & Mrs. Herminia Cadena


By Francisco H. Cortes

Manuel Cavazos Cadena was only a boy during WWII. But he witnessed the effects the war had in one of the several towns he lived in: San Marcos, Texas.

Two of his brothers were employed because of the war, when an airfield was built, and gravel had to be transported for it. One brother got a job as a maintenance worker and another as a bus boy in the mess hall at the field.

Herminia Guerrero Cadena


By Ashley Hitson

Without prior understanding of the war or its impact on the world, young Herminia Cadena watched her brother leave home to join the Marines.

"I didn't recognize the importance [of the war] until my brother went in," said Cadena, who was only 9 at the time, unfamiliar with the events that were changing the world.