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Jessie Ortiz


By Cindy Carcamo

From a young age, Jessie Ortiz learned his Mexican American heritage would be an obstacle in a world dominated by what he calls the "white man's law." He would experience prejudice and discrimination -- even when he fought for his country in World War II. Looking back on his life, he recalls a story of constant struggle, survival and success on the battlefields of war and life.

Ortiz literally was born on the "wrong side of the tracks" -- the Southern Pacific Railroad Tracks, in Fresno, Calif. His parents, Felipa and Jose Ortiz, were Mexican immigrants.

Jesus Ochoa


By Raquel C. Garza

As a child, Jesus Ochoa once spent the 16th of September, a Mexican holiday celebrating independence from Spain, at home with his family. When he returned to school the next day, his teacher admonished him, saying missing classes was inappropriate because he was an American, not a Mexican.

When Ochoa returned from World War II, September 16 took on a new meaning -- he came back to the United States a veteran after being injured in battle.

Tomas Martinez


By Celina Moreno

Tomás Martinez, a veteran of the Normandy Invasion and the Battle of the Bulge who became a barber, has lived by a "do-it-yourself" philosophy since his youth in southern New Mexico.

Born Dec. 21, 1923, to Amador Martinez and Manuela Mendoza Martinez, Martinez was the fourth of 12 children who grew up in the New Mexican farm village of Vado, where the Mendoza side of the family had lived since the 1590s, before the United States annexed what is now the Southwestern United States.

William Carrillo


By Mario Barrera

William Carrillo knew he wanted to go into the Army Air Corps when he enlisted in 1942, but there was a problem: He didn’t have the required college degree for the Air Corps Cadet program. So on the application form the resourceful Carrillo entered "College of Hard Knox." By the time anybody noticed that Hard Knox was not an accredited institution, Carrillo was on his way to the cadet program. If he’d known how many hard knocks were in store for him in Europe, he might have had second thoughts.

Jose Robert Zaragoza


When Jose R. Zaragoza returned from World War II, he found an invigorated Los Angeles ripe with opportunities for younger generations of Latinos.

Zaragoza was born in Los Angeles, Calif. in 1920. His parents had emigrated with his two older brothers from Mexico to escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution. When he was 9, his family moved to the flatlands of Northern California right before the onset of the Great Depression. Although he did attend school in California for a short time, he quit to work in the fields.

Armando Miguel Rodriguez


By Heather Anne Watkins

Dr. Armando Rodriguez knows what it's like to be oppressed, but with a strong will he rose to the top and is living a long, happy life. Immigrating to the U.S. from Mexico when he was six years old, growing up in a family of eight siblings and leading Latino organizations in high school that he said were deprived of opportunities given to white students were only a few of the obstacles Rodriguez had to overcome.

Carlos Guerra Samarron


By Cliff Despres

Three weeks after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Charles "Carlos" Guerra Samarron, of San Antonio, Texas, joined the fight and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, beginning a four-year stint in the military and opening the door for a lifetime of memories.

As part of the 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Amphibious Tractor Battalion, Samarron would survive perilous beach assaults on the islands of Guam and Iwo Jima, face down the possibility of invading Japan and exit the war in 1946 with a new perspective on life.

Jose Ramirez


By Will Potter

Jose Ramirez remembers his first job: selling newspapers in downtown San Diego. After walking two miles home at the end of his first day of work, he proudly told his parents he earned 3 cents.

He was only 8 years old.

By the time he was 12, he was paying for his own clothing and some other expenses, so his parents wouldn’t have to support him as much. He worked to ease the burden on his parents so they could support his 10 siblings, he said.

Peter Salcedo


By Diana Lee

As a child in southern California, Pete Salcedo hid in embarrassment during lunch to eat homemade tacos.

"At that time you didn't have all these Mexican restaurants," Salcedo said. He thinks their growing popularity in mainstream America caused him to stop hiding his Mexican food.

Tizoc Romero


By Dennis Robbins

Although he faced criticism from minorities for fighting in the war, Tizoc Romero, a veteran of World War II, feels his involvement in the war opened the doors to a lifetime of achievement.

During the 1930s, or Great Depression period, many Americans, especially minorities, faced the hardships of poverty, war, discrimination and an economy that excluded many of them. Romero witnessed a troubled country.