Austin

Miguel Pineda


By Sandra Ibarra

Miguel Pineda recalls Gen. Douglas MacArthur trying to inspire him and the other inexperienced soldiers upon their arrival in Brisbane, Australia. Pineda, 21 at the time, remembers MacArthur saying: "You kill him or he'll kill you!"

That was the defining moment when the reality and hardship of war and death hit this young man.

Thomas Galindo


By Antonio Gilb

Thomas Galindo was working at an Austin drug store selling sodas for 35 cents when he heard the shocking report on the radio. It was news that would irrevocably change the 19-year-old's life.

The date was Dec. 7, 1941. Galindo heard the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

"I was getting close to that age," he said. He knew he was going to war.

Sam Casarez


By Stephen Stetson

For most of his life, Sam Casarez, an Austin, Texas, native who served as a Merchant Marine in World War II, wasn’t accorded the privileges and benefits of veterans.

Francisco Venegas


By Erika Rodriguez

Francisco Venegas sits in the kitchen of his house in southeast Austin. That act alone makes him feel lucky.

Joe Moreno Uriegas


By Cody Morris

Joe Moreno Uriegas faced overwhelming enemy fire and unfamiliar surroundings on the front lines in Northern Europe during World War II.

A soldier in the 188th Field Artillery Battalion supporting the 82nd Airborne Division, Uriegas remained optimistic and strong-willed, however, summoning his beliefs as a devout Catholic to pull him through. Once back home, he’d again turn to his faith: this time to help establish a local veterans post to support and nurture Catholic veterans.

Reginald Rios


By Chris Nay

Infantryman Reginald Rios watched helplessly in December of 1944 as two fellow Americans fell to enemy fire while U.S. Sherman tanks faced off against German Panzers in northern France.

His only thought: to survive.

Shooting out of foxholes on the front line every day, ducking into foxholes to avoid bullets every night and praying every minute it would end soon -- such was the life of Rios during World War II, as infantryman were the first to the front line.

"You have to do it," he said. "You either do what you're told or be killed."

María Elisa Reyes Rodríguez


By Cheryl Smith

Seventy-seven-year-old María Elisa Reyes Rodriguez isn’t shy about opening her mouth when something's not right. As a Mexican American woman and former employee of the United States Civil Service, she has developed strong opinions about her country, discrimination and the relationship between the two.

"We're in America, and everybody has to be treated equally," Reyes Rodriguez said. "But if you don't have the guts to speak out for yourself, nobody's gonna do it for you."

Josephine Kelly Ledesma Walker


By Monica Rivera

When she was being trained as an airplane mechanic in the 1940s, Josephine Ledesma was the only woman in her training group. Later, as an airplane mechanic at Bergstrom Air Field, she was one of three women out of her seven-person workgroup.

One typical scenario was having several people working on one plane.

"You had people working on the electric part, on the hydraulic part, on the engine," said Ledesma during an interview at her home. "I happened to work on the fuselage, the body of the plane."

Antonio Ramos Reyna


By Matthew Trana

When Tony Reyna arrived at Normandy Beach on June 9, 1944, three days after the D-Day launch, he couldn't believe his eyes.

"It was real rough," Reyna said. "...People cut in half. Some had no head, some had no legs. It was real bad."

Raymond Sanchez


By Rhonda Miller

World War II veteran Raymond Sanchez went bird hunting once with a Navy buddy in South Texas. The two friends, both Latinos, decided to stop for a beer at a little tavern on Highway 72 between Kennedy and Three Rivers.

"We came to this shed outside and all the Hispanics or Mexican Americans were drinking outside," Sanchez said. "I says, 'Hey man, it's September and it's hot, why don't we go inside?'

“He says, 'Raymond, we can't,' and I asked, 'Why?'

“He says, 'It's just the way it is, you know.'"