Austin

Eddie Sanchez


By Vicki Lamar

Eddie Sanchez was 17 years old when he saw the reality of war in Utine, Italy, in 1945. Horrified, he left camp without permission -- absent without leave, or AWOL. That act changed his life, as punishment was kitchen patrol duty. Before long he was running the kitchen and on his way to a distinguished 31-year Army career in Food Services.

Enrique Leon Saenz


By Jaime Stockwell

The sun squinted through the leaves, leaving subtle shadows on the cracked concrete sidewalk. There he stood, with a bag slung over his shoulder and a quarter in his pocket, defiant and determined. Success would be hard earned; he knew that from his father, and all the fathers before. But as he stood there -- glancing left, right, left, right -- he didn't seem to mind.

Benito L. Rodriguez


By Andria Infante

Benito L. Rodriguez served 20 years in the service and doesn't regret a single second.

Rodriguez went in willingly, volunteering to serve his country; in the course of his tour of duty, he risked his life and was awarded a Purple Heart.

Speaking from the dining room at his South Austin home, Rodriguez discussed his life before and after the war. His wife, María Elisa Reyes Rodriguez, sat by his side and helped fuel his memory. A well-groomed man, Rodriguez maintained a serious demeanor and kept his answers short and to the point.

Morris Riojas


By Frank Trejo

Morris Riojas lived through some of the most horrific and brutal fighting of the Pacific during World War II.

In campaigns from the Solomon Islands to the Philippines, he witnessed countless deaths, both Japanese and allied soldiers, and was himself wounded three times.

"I don't know how I got through it," he said, sitting in the kitchen of the East Austin home he built after returning home from his service in World War II. "You just lived from day-to-day and just prayed a lot."

Mary Colunga Carmona Resendez


By Cliff Despres

Austin resident Mary Resendez remembers exactly where she was on Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor: where she usually was on Sunday -- at Mass.

"We heard [about the bombing] on a Sunday at church," said the 74-year-old Resendez, who was 14 when World War II broke out. "We just prayed to God that it (the war) wouldn't come over here.

Francisco Rodriguez Resendez


By Katherine Hearty

It was Frank Resendez's first night in New Guinea in November of 1943 and his company had carelessly left on the residential lights. A mistake that could have cost them their lives, as the rumbling and reverberating of detonating war bombs thundered throughout the night sky.

Luckily, however, the company was spared.

Resendez's journey to World War II began 22 years earlier in the town of Bluff Springs, Texas, about 10 miles south of Austin.

Born Francisco Rodriguez Resendez on Jan. 29, 1920, he lived in Texas until he was 9 months old.

Mary Martinez Olvera Murillo


By Ana Cristina Acosta

For most Americans, walking down the street, entering a restaurant through the front door or going to the grocery store is routine. But for Mary Murillo, 75, who grew up at a time when Mexican Americans suffered blatant discrimination, those simple things weren’t always possible.

Alvino Mendoza


By Haldun Morgan

"We were in Saipan when I had my first taste of combat. Not combat, [but] of bombs being dropped on us, trying to sink us. And I'm staring at the airplanes dropping, and I'm sure everyone is gonna hit us."

Before his initiation into World War II, Alvino Mendoza wondered what it would be like.

Porfirio Escamilla Martinez


By Yazmin Lazcano

The experience of stepping over hundreds of bodies -- the sounds of mine blasts, surf pelting the coast and bullets whizzing overhead filling his ears -- is as vivid to Porfirio Martinez today as it was 55 years ago.

For Martinez, WWII isn’t over. He fought in major battles, and continues fighting today through nightmares of the D-Day landings.

Martinez recalled the 'tiradero' (the mess) of thousands of bodies on the beach during the second wave of D-Day landings.

"Dead. All dead," he said.

Eliceo Lopez


By Kimberly Tilley

On the walls of a small, comfortable East Austin residence, family photographs fill the house. A framed photo of a beaming couple sits on the mantle, and an adjacent bedroom contains a small altar with a photo, surrounded by a crucifix and several candles, of a young man with long black hair and soulful eyes. On the handcrafted bookcase, more photographs of happy faces adorn the shelves.