CA

Fernando Rene Del Rio


By Avery Bradshaw, Cal State Fullerton

When Fernando Del Rio left Los Angeles in September 1950 and joined a Navy air squadron, it was the first time he had ever been away from home. Turning on the radio, he was surprised to hear Japanese music.

"We knew we were off the coast of Japan," Del Rio said.

Del Rio explained that in high school, he had watched his two elder brothers, Jose and Octavio, return home after serving in World War II. He remembers an overall patriotic feeling in America at the time. He was among the many who enlisted after WWII.

Estella Zaragoza Hernandez


By Ashley Nelcy Garcia

For Estella Zaragoza Hernandez, working in the fields under the sizzling California sun as a young girl was not much more than a child’s game.

It was part of her life, growing up as the youngest of six children, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who crossed the American border years before she was born. When she was a child, Hernandez’s family migrated from place to place picking crops and working the fields throughout California.

Oscar C. Muñoz


By Jordan Haeger

It's 3 a.m., and Oscar C. Muñoz wakes up to make sure his doors and windows are locked in his Chula Vista, Calif., home. It's been this way every day for more than 40 years.

Muñoz enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on April 15, 1968, without telling his parents. One of twelve children born to Manual and Abigail Muñoz, farm laborers in Arizona, he knew the military was his only way to access education and success.

"We used to pick cotton, and it was three cents a pound," Muñoz said. "Can you imagine how much cotton you have to pick to make one pound?"

Pedro Gomez Soto


By Frank Trejo Jr.

Pedro Gomez Soto knew the importance of making the most of what life gives you. He was fond of saying that experiences “grow you up.”

And they certainly did for Soto, who started working as a boy with other migrants in the fields and went on to honorably serve his country during World War II. In addition, he continued to make contributions to his family and community long after his military service.

Meregildo Carrillo


By Shamoyita DasGupta

Meregildo Carrillo harbors no regrets.

A decorated soldier, Carrillo served in World War II in France in the 79th Infantry Division, both despite and because of his own personal battles.

Born in San Angelo, Texas, on April 13, 1924, Carrillo’s mother left him in the care of his grandparents when she remarried. For several years, he said he was shuttled back and forth between families in different Texas cities.

Throughout his childhood, and even for several years after the war, Carrillo lived on meager finances.

Angela Isabel Ramirez-Herrera


By David M. Ramirez

When Angela Isabel Herrera-Flores married Adolfo Roberto “Rusty” Ramirez on Sept. 7, 1942, she became Angela I. Ramirez-Herrera. She also became a World War II bride.

Ramirez’s husband landed at Omaha Beach June 6, 1944, and fought all the way through to the surrender. Ramirez, or “Angie,” as she was known to her friends, contributed to the war effort on the home front. She was interviewed as part of her son's 1984 endeavor to record for her grandchildren and posterity her and Adolfo’s contribution to winning WWII.

Anthony Acevedo


By Cathy Sze

It was 50 degrees below zero, one of the coldest winters Germany had seen in 50 years. A blanket of snow several feet high covered the ground.

Wearing only combat uniforms designed for warfare in the tropics, a group of about 40 Americans from the 275th Infantry Regiment trekked at gunpoint down to the bottom of Falkenberg Ridge, a rocky hill near Phillipsburg, where German army trucks awaited, recalled World War II veteran Anthony Acevedo.

These soldiers had been taken prisoner by the Germans, and 19-year-old Acevedo was one of them.

Manuel Juarez


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, 14-year-old Manuel Juarez was raring to go.

“I had been keeping up with the war in Europe, so I was more or less aware of what was going on,” recalled Juarez more than 60 years later.

His parents, Augustin Juarez, an orange- and lemon-grove laborer, and Belen Sanchez Juarez, a housewife, gave him permission to enlist, but not until he turned 17.

Robert L. Cardenas


By Rachel Platis

In 1939, National Guard Pvt. Robert Cardenas was in the final stage of obtaining a full scholarship to the California Institute of Technology, having just completed two years of pre-engineering study at San Diego State College. In one hand, he held a letter regarding the scholarship; in the other, a letter from his commanding officer:

“Welcome, Private Cardenas, we are going to the Philippines,” Cardenas recalled the communiqué reading.

Raul Baca Martinez


By Taylor Fishytnt

Raul B. Martinez spent four years in the Army’s Combat Corps of Engineers in World War II.

The combat engineers went in first, then the assault troops. Their job: keep the Army moving.