San Antonio

Ramiro G. Cortez

By Camri Hinkie

On August 6, 1944, United States Air Force gunner Ramiro Cortez was about to board a plane bound for Berlin, Germany, which would have been his sixth mission, had he gone through with it.

Cortez wasn’t originally assigned to this mission, but he agreed to go in place of his friend, another gunner named Kenneth Law. At the last minute, however, Kenneth changed his mind and took on the assignment instead of Cortez.

Alex Rodriguez

As a little boy, Alex Rodriguez, Jr. never understood why so many people who know his father, Alex Rodriguez, treated him with the utmost respect.

Later in life, while reading his father’s accounts as an infantryman in the European Theater during World War II, and, later, a prisoner of war in a German camp, Alex began to understand.

Although Rodriguez Sr. passed away in 2006, his son knows he’d be glad his story will finally be known.

Manuel Perez, Jr.

Twenty-two-year-old Manuel Pérez, Jr. was killed in action on March 14, 1945, on the road to Santo Tomas in Southern Luzon in the Philippine Islands.

Private First Class Pérez served as a paratrooper in the 11th Air Borne Infantry Division and was the lead scout for Company A of the 511th Parachute Infantry. A month before he was killed by a sniper bullet, he’d qualified for the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor. On Feb. 28, 1945, he wrote the following to his uncle, Private Jesse Pérez, who was also in the South Pacific:

Manuel Sierra Pérez

By Brenda Menchaca

Manuel Sierra Pérez sits on a chair at a desk cluttered with photographs of his children at a young age and a University of Texas coffee mug, among other items.

“I have everything on the desk. I don’t even have to move,” Pérez said.

From his desk, he still writes to his friends from the war, who he met more than 50 years ago. Joining the Army was an eye opener for him in many ways: other cultures, ideas, education and opportunity.

Maria Cristina Parra

By Adrienne Lee

Maria Cristina [Pozos] Parra knows few details about World War II outside the stories her husband, Ambrosio Parra, chose to tell her, and a wound on his foot that left him in pain for the rest of his life. As she put it: “He told me a little bit, but he didn’t like to talk about [it].

Maria Pozos and Ambrosio Parra met in the mid-1940s at Randolph Air Force Base – located in Universal City, Texas, just outside San Antonio – when her supervisor asked her to escort Ambrosio, the new employee, to the base’s machine shop. Five years later, they got married.

Guadalupe Rodriguez Flores

By Jeffrey McWhorter

Morning broke as the train rolled into Texarkana, Texas.

“Now don’t close your eyes,” the porter admonished a 22-year-old Bertha Flores, “because we’re getting close … and we’ll pass it real fast.”

For the past twenty-four hours, the eager young woman had asked the porter the same question every hour: “Where are we?” And each time she received the same patient reply, “Still in Texas.”

Julian Medina

By Pierre Bertrand

It seems as if Army infantryman Julian Medina, who was drafted in 1943, was on the frontlines of every major World War II European campaign, from the Normandy Invasion to the Battle of the Bulge.

“I was in every fight. I was in every battle,” said Medina, who was part of the Army’s 119th Infantry Regiment, 30th Infantry Division in 1943.

His European service began in Scotland, where he was among thousands of American soldiers being trained for amphibious assaults.

Benigno Gaytan

By Melissa Mendoza

“Most of my friends, they say, ‘Let’s join the Navy,’” said Benigno “Tony” Gaytan, when asked why he signed up for the Armed Forces during World War II.

“I said, ‘OK.’”

At 17, Gaytan was working as a stock boy at a five-and-dime store in Laredo, Texas. The United States had been involved in the war for more than a year. He recalled the irony of unpacking a shipment of clay toys marked “Made in Japan,” the country in which he’d soon find himself battling in the Pacific for his life and country.

Jose Elisandro Rosales

By Meredith Margrave

Jose Rosales’ family may not be from this country, but Rosales has always been an American.

Growing up in Campbellton, Texas, nearly an hour away from San Antonio, Texas, Rosales was one of eight children in his family.

“Sometimes it was good, sometimes bad, and we struggle[d],” he said. “My sisters worked at the restaurants. Some of them graduated school, some didn’t; I didn’t even earn my high school diploma. I got it when I got discharged from service in Arkansas.”

Frances Correa Reyes

By Danielle WIlson

Frances Reyes has understood the inherently difficult nature of life since childhood. Raised in the late 1920s, she and her family could only afford to buy beans and rice consistently at the neighborhood store. They depended on charity for the rest of their food.

“We had to walk 10 blocks to this place and we would go over there and get whatever they gave us,” said Reyes of how they managed to get flour, sugar, powdered milk and other essentials.