AZ

Fernando Jimenez


By: Voces Staff

Joseph F. Velasquez


By Kristina Beverly, Cal State Fullerton

When Joseph Velasquez joined the U.S. Navy on April 23, 1968, he received a card that asked where he would want to go if he were deployed.

He could have picked anywhere, but he wanted to be where the action was. Velasquez wanted to go to Vietnam.

"People would ask, 'Why do you want to go there?' Velasquez said. "But it would be like going to a wedding and not seeing the groom. I didn’t want to miss the action."

Benjamin "Ben" S. Rivera


By Blake Barber, California State University, Fullerton

Looking back on his experience while serving with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam, Ben Rivera evoked three years full of uncertainty about making it home, but also friendships that survived his lifetime.

Rivera was born Feb. 12, 1949, in Tucson, Arizona. His father, Benjamin Rivera, worked installing glass windows, and his mother, Connie Rivera, was a homemaker. Rivera recalled his parents as hard-working; they did the best they could to provide for their six children.

José Luis "Louis" Villalobos Jr.


By the Voces Staff

Louis Villalobos Jr., a senior in high school, weighed his options. He didn't have the money to go to college. He could wait to be drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, or he could enlist and hope to be assigned somewhere else, where he could learn a trade.

Juan Espinosa De La Garza


By the Voces Staff

Gunshots peppered the ground around Cpl. Juan De La Garza. The mud of the rice paddies filled his boots. He did not know where the shots were coming from, just that he had to get his men back to Hill 327, a base camp near Da Nang, Vietnam.

U.S. machine guns would protect the squad once they were close enough to the communication towers on the hill. His radioman became hysterical, but De La Garza could not afford to lose his cool. He had to get his men back safely.

Samuel Padilla Echeveste


By Hayley Stern, Rutgers University

An elementary school teacher told Samuel Echeveste he would one day be defending his country.

The young boy sitting in that classroom in Miami, Arizona (about 70 miles east of Phoenix), would fulfill that prophecy, finishing basic training and being sent to the Korean War before his 20th birthday.

Echeveste never saw himself becoming a decorated war veteran serving the U.S. during a time when he was not accepted by his fellow Americans.

John Soltero


By Katherine Salinas

His hand mimicked the path of a B-17, recalling the spry 22-year-old that John Soltero had been all those years ago when he was dropping bombs onto Berlin. A confident smile was radiant beneath his shaded glasses and “Veteran” embroidered hat. Even though he was 86, it wasn't hard to imagine Soltero flying over Germany, in a freezing cockpit, with a burning engine and an alarm telling him to bail out.

Henry Oyama


By Lauren Harrity, California State University, Fullerton

After growing up in a Spanish-speaking Japanese-American family in Tucson, Arizona, Henry "Hank" Oyama went on to be a tireless supporter of bilingual education for American children.

Oyama always felt more Hispanic than Japanese-American. His mother, Mary Matsushima, was raised in Mexico and spoke primarily Spanish; his father, Henry Heihachiro Oyama, died shortly before he was born. His neighborhood friends were mostly Hispanic.

"Tucson was like a small Mexican town at this time," Oyama said.

John Chavez


By Amanda Stair

John Chavez grew up as an orphan, moving from house to house, and later survived the bloodiest Pacific battle of World War II. After the war, he settled in Tucson, Ariz. So when he looked back, he realized: "My life turned out good."

Ruben D Suarez


By Cameron Reed, California State University, Fullerton

Throughout his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II and for the rest of his life, Ruben Suarez had a strong understanding of diversity and the need to persevere to achieve his dreams.

Suarez remembered the difficulties of growing up during the Great Depression. High school teachers often urged Latinos to prepare for manual labor jobs, instead of college.