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Gilbert Lopez


By Ismael Martinez

Gilbert Lopez was born Sept. 30, 1919, in Azusa, northeast of Los Angeles. His father, Victorio Jose Lopez, worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a stonemason. Lopez' mother, Dephene Lopez, was a homemaker, raising the couple's eight children.

During the Depression years, Lopez remembers growing up in poverty and attending Irwindale School without shoes. As a small boy, official segregation forced Latinos to sit in separate sections of public buildings, such as movie theaters.

Armando E. Gonzales


By Dionicia Rivera

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

Benigno Nevarez Diaz


By Veronica Olvera

Amid the horror of war in the European Theater, Benigno Diaz found himself in awe of the deadly efficiency of enemy forces, struck by "how accurate the German aviators were," he said.

Diaz served as a scout during World War II when he was just a teenager. He enlisted just shy of his 18th birthday and left his Los Angeles home for the frontlines of the war in Europe. While he managed to stay alive, he witnessed the fate of comrades who weren't as fortunate.

Frank Cordero


By Sarah Jackson

Drafted at 21, Frank Cordero endured hardships typical of most soldiers. But in telling his story, he prefers to dwell on the lighter side of war.

Born in 1921 in Alamogordo, N.M., Cordero was the youngest of five children born to Felix Cordero and Benjardina Gonzales Cordero. He joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and was sent to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, before being shipped out to Camp Gruber near Muskogee, Okla., for basic training. The "final exam" of the yearlong training was three months of maneuvers in the Louisiana swamps.

Alfredo A. Castro


By Erin Neck

Alfred Castro wears a cap that bears his medals on the outside but holds his memories of the war inside.

Now 80 years old, Castro vividly remembers the details of his life before, during and after the war and the men with whom he served in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

Born in LaVerne, Calif., on Jan. 27, 1922, Castro describes a simpler life than most children know today, living among orange orchards, going to school and playing baseball to stay out of trouble.

Jesus Leyva Armendaríz


By Ellie K. Fehd

Jesus Leyva Armendaríz went from the depths of poverty during his Depression-era childhood in El Paso, Texas, to unimagined heights as a member of the famed "Blue Devils" of World War II.

Tony Aguilera


By Yasemin Florey

Even though Tony Aguilera's childhood in an East Los Angeles barrio was once marked by poverty, he remembers it fondly.

"We were a very happy family," he said of his Mexico-born parents and 13 siblings. "We played marbles and tops and flew kites. We sent to the fields and caught rabbits."

Aguilera would leave his home and fond memories behind when, on March 4, 1942, he was drafted into the service as a member of a Texas infantry unit in Europe. Eventually, he’d become a prisoner of war in a German camp for 16 months.

Domingo Zatarian


By Donetta Nagle

Domingo Zatarian looked on a map and set out to find his brother's division shortly after the Battle of the Bulge had ended in Europe.

And he found him. There was Marty in a ditch, doing the last thing Zatarian would have imagined: singing the song "Swinging on the Star."

"He was singing 'Would you rather be a mule?' or some such thing," said Zatarian, a smile on his thin lips.

Lauro Vega


By Miguel A. Castro

Lauro Vega distinctly remembers being in England and anxiously waiting to receive orders from the 197th AAA Battalion, the company he was in.

"They told us, 'All you fellows will be in an invasion but we don't know where or when,'" Vega said. "They knew but they didn't want to tell us."

On June 4, 1944, it would be a friend's reaction to a delicious meal that would convince Vega that the 197th AAA Battalion would finally be shipped out to be a part of an invasion.

Trino J. Soto


By Cindy Carcamo

U.S. Navy veteran Trino Soto can't remember the exact date or location, but the image of his ship along with eight other destroyers traveling in the evening along the Pacific Ocean will forever remain in his mind.

"As we were going I was looking back, like this, because we were the flag ship. And, they were all staggered, one behind the other like that," Soto said. "That was the most beautiful sight I ever saw -- those nine destroyers going full steam."