FL

Jesus Jasso


Mexican immigrants Antonio Jasso and Genoveva Ramirez Jasso, who picked cotton in South Texas, would see five of their sons go off to war.

Their granddaughter, Evelyn Jasso Garcia, set out to record their story, and that of her father and uncles. An associate professor at San Antonio College, she regrets she wasn't able to interview her uncles, but gratified her dad, Jose "Joe" Jasso lived to see the fruit of her research.

Guy Vasquez


By Laura Barganier

Becoming a doctor and helping others have a better life was Guy Vasquez’s dream growing up after witnessing his father die of a brain tumor.

Life worked out differently for Vasquez, however, as the United States drafted him into the Navy during his first year as a premedical student at The University of Tampa in 1944.

“[The war] interrupted my ambition, what I was preparing for,” he said.

Willie Vila


By Lindsay Stafford

For Marine sniper Willie Vila, the only way to make it through World War II alive was to kill or be killed.

Vila used this advice, which he recalls getting from Lieutenant General Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, to keep him going through four years in World War II with the United States Marine Corps.

“I had a telescope on my rifle and a single shot,” he said. “And then I got a tommy gun, a [45] caliber with 50 rounds, a hundred [rounds of extra ammunition] in my back and my canteen of water. I survived.”

Albert Nieto


By Angel Flores

From a cardboard box, Albert Nieto rummages through old newspapers, postcards and other keepsakes that bring back memories from his days of service in the Army. One of the artifacts he pulls from the box is a sightseeing guide of the “Playground of the Orient” in the Philippines.

Raymond Vega


By Israel Saenz

At the Vega home in East Chicago, Ind., during World War II, there were five blue stars in the window -- one for each of the sons serving in the military. Raymond Vega was one of them, serving aboard a ship as a hospital corpsman, tending to sick and wounded men. It was that experience that would lead him to devote his life to his faith, as a Roman Catholic priest.

Sailing in the South Pacific, aboard the USS Long Island, Vega had thoughts of being killed by a torpedo.

"When you have a thought like that for two years, you learn to pray," Vega said.

Louis Angel Ramirez


By Jennifer Nalewicki

Luis Angel Ramirez has many memories of World War II.

But his strongest recollection is the camaraderie soldiers shared in his platoon, which helped Ramirez stay grounded while battling German soldiers on the front lines.

Ramirez considered the men in his platoon, the 102nd Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, his family; especially since they were together from the time they began military training at Fort Dix in New Jersey and Fort Jackson in South Carolina in 1941 until the war's end in 1945.

Fernando Bernacett


By Jenny White

When Fernando Bernacett came to New York City to find his father as a 6-year-old in 1929, he had no idea what an adventure he was beginning. By the time the Puerto Rico native retired in Miami, he’d witnessed the Great Depression, helped in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, guarded the atomic bomb, was quarantined for tuberculosis and watched the World Trade Center fall.

Raul Rios Rodriguez


By D'Arcy Kerschen

Life wasn't easy for Raul Rios-Rodriguez, who grew up on the mean streets of New York City throughout most of World War II. You had to fight for respect to survive, he says, and he learned that lesson at 14 upon arriving from Puerto Rico at the onset of the war.

Rios and his four brothers and four sisters moved to Spanish Harlem in New York in 1941. An older sister was the head of the household while Rios' parents remained in Puerto Rico, where his dad grew crops he sold at market.

Carmen Conteras Bozak


By Katie Kennon

Carmen Bozak's only memory of Dec. 7, 1941 -- the day Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese -- is of a good friend and co-worker being stranded after her date heard about the attack on the car radio. The woman's date stopped the car in the middle of nowhere and told her to get out because he had to return to his base.

A policeman picked up Bozak's friend from a rural Virginia road and drove her to a nearby Salvation Army office, where she was given a bus ticket home to Washington, D.C.

Carmen Irizarry Albelo


By Sylvia Mendoza

When Carmen Albelo sailed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the United States in 1939, she envisioned a land of opportunity and freedom, not war, discrimination and loneliness.

"When I came here I thought I was going to have a better life, but it wasn't like that,'' Albelo recalled.