AZ

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.

Rita Abeytia Brock-Perini


By Ben Wermund

As a captain in the U.S. Air Force Nursing Corps, Rita Brock-Perini provided care to thousands of soldiers, as well as guidance to hundreds of nurses in the largest Air Force hospital in the United States during the bloodiest years of the Vietnam War.

Some of the soldiers, who were often drafted right out of high school, had suffered severe physical and psychological wounds. Caring for them took a toll on the younger nurses at the hospital, Brock-Perini recalled.

Bobby G. Biers


By Emily Macrander

Marine veteran Robert "Bobby" Biers recalls more distress as a drill instructor dodging comments from mothers than when he was on the frontlines in South Vietnam.

"I had these mothers calling me up, asking me, 'what did you do to my baby? He has manners, and he's polite. He lost 100 pounds. He's lean, mean and tough,' " Biers said.

"Tough but firm" is how Biers described the Marine Corps' approach to making new Marines.

Uriel Robles Bañuelos


By Stephanie De Luna

At around 1 a.m. on Jan. 10, 1969, gunner Uriel “Ben” Bañuelos and other soldiers were roused from their sleep at Fire Support Base Pershing, 40-50 miles northwest of Saigon.

Bañuelos and the other men were in an underground bunker. He remembered it was a hot night. Bañuelos got up and put on his helmet and his jacket. He later said they probably saved his life.

Rudolph Lopez


By Stephanie De Luna

Growing up in Phoenix, Rudolph “Rudy” Lopez knew that he was destined to serve in the military. Born in 1946, Lopez grew up in a close-knit family with a long line of military war heroes.

“We were very much an all-American family. The military was just something that you do. That’s all there was to it,” Lopez said.

Lopez’s father was a member of the Army military police during World War II in France.

Henry Soza


By Jonathan Woo

The horrors of the Vietnam War remained so etched in his mind that for decades, Henry Soza Jr., continued to be haunted by what he had seen and heard.

As a U.S. Army Combat Medic supporting Troop B, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), Soza saw more than his share of pain and death. His actions so distinguished Soza that he was twice awarded the Silver Star, one of the nation’s highest military decorations for valor, as well as a Bronze Star.

But the futility of the war drained him.

Samuel Padilla Echeveste

Manuel Rubin Lugo


By Haley Dawson

Manuel Lugo boarded a plane in Okinawa, Japan, in November 1969 on the last leg of his journey to Vietnam. From the U.S. mainland to Hawaii and then to Okinawa, the flights had been lively—chattering, joking, laughing. But “from Okinawa to Vietnam, you could have heard a pin drop,” Lugo remembered. “The atmosphere just changed from day to night.”

Ignacio Servín


By Miranda Bollinger

When Ignacio Servín volunteered during World War II for a mission so dangerous his commander wouldn’t even assign it to someone, he wasn’t even frightened. He wanted to do it.

"I just kept thinking, 'If I die, it will be for a great country,'" Servín said.