San Antonio

Ismael Nevarez

By Paul Brown

Ismael Nevarez was headed west across the Pacific Ocean aboard a troopship in early August of 1945. Countless other United States Navy vessels surrounded him as far as the eye could see, and they were all headed in the same direction.

With the Port of Seattle out of sight, this 19-year-old from a tiny village in Puerto Rico received the official word: He and his fellow soldiers were to take part in the invasion of Japan.

Mary Espiritu

By Rebecca Millner

In more than 40 years of service, Mary Espiritu De Leon received at least 45 awards and honors, recognizing her commitment to San Antonio's Latino community, and especially its women.

Her role as a spokeswoman and advocate grew out of her own struggle to succeed as a professional Latina at a time when her ethnicity and gender were considered strikes against her.

"I always wanted better for myself than just being a mother and a housewife," Espiritu said. "I wanted a good job, to move ahead and improve myself, regardless of whether I was a Latina."

Erasmo G. Lopez

By Cheryl Smith Kemp

Erasmo G. Lopez spent a good chunk of his twenties on the front lines of battle, both in World War II and the Korean War.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Lopez was drafted into the Army in 1942 at the age of 20.

“If I hadn’t of gone, they would have taken me,” he half-joked in Spanish.

In Germany, where Uncle Sam sent Lopez’s regiment, the 335th Infantry, part of the 84th Division, after maneuvers training in Lake Charles, La., Lopez was in, among other fights, the Battle of the Bulge.

Arthur Muñoz

By Brenda Menchaca

“There are no barriers unless you make them yourself,” said Arthur Muñoz, who enlisted in the Marine Corps two weeks after Pearl Harbor.

While working as a Western Union messenger in Corpus Christi, Texas, he’d been delivering telegrams to the federal building where Armed Forces recruiting offices were located.

“[I] always thought Marines looked sharper in their blues,” so when the time came to choose a military branch, Muñoz recalled saying, “that’s for me, that’s where I’m going.”

Andrew Guzman

By David Muto

When Andrew E. Guzman tried to enlist in the Marines at 18, he was turned away and told to wait for the draft.

With remorse, Guzman said he’s fortunate he didn’t enlist on that day in 1944. Otherwise, he believed he likely would have been sent to the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, the site of one of World War II’s bloodiest battles.

“I was lucky that I wasn’t accepted,” he said.

Baldomero Estala

By David Muto

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Baldomero Estala relied on quiet independence.

In junior high school – from which Estala withdrew for economic reasons before fighting in World War II – he kept to himself, he says.

“I tried to get along with people, and I learned how to read Spanish,” said Estala of his formal education. “I never belonged to a sports team. I wasn’t too much of a mixer with people in school.”

Alberto Z. Caballero

By Na Kyung Kim

General society’s prevailing atmosphere of racial discrimination couldn’t shake the strong comradeship present in the Army for Albert Caballero, who began his service in 1940 with the 36th Infantry Division. Though he initially enlisted to prepare himself for war, for him, the Army turned out to be primarily a place where he could interact and unite with others, rather than learn how to fight.

“When the combat started, we leaned how to respect each other,” Caballero said. “[It] was people from different parts of [the] country into one segment.”

Angela A. Vela

By Veronica Rosalez

Growing up in Austria, Angela Vela had a front-row seat to the effects Hitler and World War II had on Europe. But in a time when fear and turmoil plagued the country, Vela was fortunate enough to find something very different – love.

Abel Vela

By Valerie Harris

Most people hope to retire around age 65, but hard-working Abel Vela stayed busy well into his 70s.

After 27 years in the Army and more than 30 years of owning and operating a number of McDonald’s franchises throughout San Antonio, Texas, the 81‐year‐old Army Major says volunteering for the Purple Heart Association and at his church have taken the place of work.

“And in my free time, I work for a young lady. Her name is Angela Vela, and she keeps me very busy,” said Vela with a laugh.

Emilio Torres

By Kristin LaFrate

When Emilio Torres enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18 on Sept. 18, 1942, little did he know he was beginning a more than 30-year military career spanning three wars.

Torres served in World War II and, later, in the Korean and Vietnam wars with the Army.

“We managed to get in with the ways of the people, and try to keep good relations with everybody,” said Torres of his interaction with civilians.