Ernest George Gonzalez

By Corina Kellam

Before the births of his son and three daughters, before trying his hand at professional golf training and real estate, Ernie Gonzalez was a naval engineer.

Gonzalez attended Oatman Grammar School in Arizona first through third grade, before moving to San Jacinto, California in 1931 after the death of his father, to continue his school years.

"Oatman is sort of a deserted town now. There is some action with donkeys walking up and down the street, though," he said.

Encarnacion A. Gonzalez


Lying in a cold stream with a bullet wound to his chest, Encarnacion Armando Gonzales felt his body getting weaker and thought his life was over. Surrounded by the enemy in the Aleutian Islands, he had been shot by a sniper.

Andrew Esparza

By Jacob Collazo

In the late 1930s, as war intensified in Europe, the United States was coming out of the Depression, but not yet directly involved in the War. In San Diego, a high school student named Andrew C. Esparza was biding his time: anticipating that he would serve his country, but enjoying his youth.

Gilbert Castorena

By Christine Emmot

Growing up in the North Island neighborhood of San Diego, Ca., before World War II, Gilbert Castorena had a childhood filled with good memories of his family, friends and school days.

Those relaxing days changed in 1940 when Castorena signed up for the U.S. Navy. He was shipped out to fight, mostly in the Pacific Theatre, during World War II.

Ruben Casillas

By Alicia Rascon

Ruben Casillas, a World War II veteran, remembers encountering discrimination on a daily basis in his youth.

Looking back, Casillas recalled being excluded from opportunities given to his classmates and still asks, "Why wasn't I included in that?"

As one of thousands of Mexican Americans to participate in World War II, Casillas fought not only for the safety of his nation but also to pave the way to equal opportunity in education and other government institutions for minorities.

Joe David Casillas

By Nora Ramirez

World War II is over, but the fight against discrimination is far from finished for Joe Casillas, a WWII veteran who lives in San Diego.

His father, Felix Ledesma Casillas, was a migrant worker who came from Jalisco, Mexico in 1914 and worked in copper mines. Working conditions were terrible so he decided to move, buy land, and build a house.

Rudy Acosta

By Frank Trejo

Growing up in Southern California, Rudy Acosta was like countless of other young boys. He escaped each week to the movies and watched the likes of Errol Flynn and John Wayne triumph over the bad guys.

Little did he know that just a few years later, World War II would propel him into the midst of one of the biggest confrontations the world has seen. Acosta, the son of Mexican immigrants, would find himself in the center of numerous heroic escapades.

"In my case, I lived that... We lived that experience," he said.