El Paso

Natividad Campos

By Erika Jaramillo

World War II veteran Natividad Campos says he felt like an old man by the age of 9.

Kidnapped by his father at age 3 and raised by his Spanish-speaking grandmother, Campos, the oldest son of four, had no formal education when in 1930 he entered St. Valentine Elementary School in Valentine, Texas.

“It was hard for me. I wasn’t use to being around so many kids at one time,” said the 87-year-old, born on Christmas, 1921.

Frank Yturralde

By Rachel Fleischman

Frank Yturralde’s life is interwoven with the threads of family and education.

At times they clashed, at times they co-existed, but mostly they were symbiotic -- family feeding education, education feeding family.

Yturralde grew up in a bilingual household in El Paso, Texas, where the importance of learning both English and Spanish was stressed. His mother was born in the U.S. and didn’t speak Spanish, while his Mexican-born father spoke both Spanish and English.

John Fernandez

By Spencer Hamilton

A simple announcement for aviation cadet training at a camp in Washburn Island, Mass., piqued John Fernandez’s interest, so he applied.

He just never expected to make it.

But to the El Paso, Texas, native’s surprise, he did, and was quickly assigned to Army Air Corps pre-flight training at Lafayette College in Easton, Penn. Fernandez successfully completed advanced aviation training and went on to fly dangerous daily missions with the 345th Bomb Group in the South Pacific during World War II.

Olga Delgado Flores

By Eric Latcham

When her new husband shipped off for the Philippines, Olga Delgado Flores was pregnant back home in El Paso, Texas.

Only 15 years old when she married 18-year-old Ramón Flores, she had dreams of a better life for her family and had been encouraged by a local principal to go to college. Flores soon learned, however, that traditional-household caregivers had limitations placed upon them.

Nemesio Mena

By Danielle Flahrity

As his B-24 bomber turned to begin its bombing run, radio operator Nemesio Mena would carefully stand on the catwalk over the bomb bay and take pictures of the damage below.

After the bomb run, he would have to make sure no bombs were hanging in the bomb bay. If one of the highly explosive bombs was still in the plane, he would have to “trick” it into dropping by kicking it, as a B-24 can’t land with a bomb hanging from its bomb bay.

Ernesto Hernando

By Rachel Vallejo

As the Enola Gay took off from the island of Tinian to drop the first atomic bomb over Hiroshima, Ernesto Hernando waited alongside his fellow servicemen to hear about the destruction.

According to the Navy’s online database of WWII casualties, the United States had been engaged in the two-front battle of World War II for more than four years, and had already lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the process. Hernando describes the mood of his unit, which was stationed on the island of Guam, about 100 miles north of Tinian.

Juana D. Flores

By David Muto

Juana Flores holds up a photograph her husband sent her while at war more than 60 years ago.

“For my dear wife, Juana,” script on the back of the picture reads. “The love I have for you is unforgettable.”

Depicting the couple in their youth, the black-and-white photo, which Flores’ husband, Espiridion Contreras Flores, sent while fighting in Europe during World War II, is one of the memories Flores holds onto of her late husband, whom she describes as, above all, a “decent” man who was deeply proud of his national service.

Roberto Tovar

By Michele Pierini

At the age of 17, fresh from graduating Bowie High School in El Paso, Texas, Roberto Tovar volunteered for military service, something he’d wanted to do since he was 13, after the Pearl Harbor bombing.

“I was very well motivated ... I was real proud of the country and real proud of everybody,” Tovar said.

Leo Ortega

By Jessica Propst

Pride runs through Leo Ortega’s veins. It was placed there by his mother, Rose Valdes Ortega, as a small boy in the 1930s amidst the backdrop of the Great Depression. Ortega watched her work day and night in Raton, N.M., to take care of her family.

“My mother was the nucleus of our family,” he said. “My dad was hardly ever home, poor guy.”

Maria Ramirez

By Luther Xue

By the time President John F. Kennedy urged his fellow Americans in 1961: “Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country,” Maria “Cora” Ramirez already had been helping for 21 years.

During World War II, Ramirez volunteered at the Red Cross by spending two hours a day wrapping bandages for the troops. She also spent time preparing to supplement military issued clothing that the troops needed, especially socks.