IL

Alicia Cisneros


By: Voces Staff

Alicia Cisneros works as a dental assistant in Elgin, Illinois. Due to COVID her work closed for almost two months (March to late May) and they only attended to emergencies. Although the staff and herself always had enough PPE, she didn’t feel safe in her work environment. She contracted the disease and spent five days in the hospital and has since felt nervous about catching it again or transmitting the virus to others and family and friends. She lost her mother and her brother to the disease.

Jesse de los Santos


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

Number 10 in a brood of 16, Jesse De los Santos was well accustomed to being a mere piece of something much larger than himself by the time he joined the United States Calvary in 1939.

Little did he know, however, that in a couple of years he would be part of an event significantly bigger than the Calvary, the Army, all of the armed forces combined, even the U.S. itself. For on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and everything changed. World War II was on.

Delfino Jose Guerrero


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

For World War II veteran Delfino Guerrero, who grew up in the urban jungle of Chicago during The Great Depression, three of the big “musts” in life were speak Spanish at home, English at school and the Boys Club; run around acting tough with friends from “the neighborhood;” and correct anyone who disrespects you.

“That’s the way it was,” said Guerrero, who was an Army medic with the 38th Infantry Division in the Pacific Theater from December of 1941 to Dec. 5, 1945.

Cruz M. Rodriguez


By Marjon Rostami

One day Cruz Rodriguez was picking corn and tomatoes on a farm outside of Chicago; the next day, the undocumented Mexican immigrant was preparing to go to war.

"They [the U.S. Army] didn't care if you were legal or not," Rodriguez said during his interview. "They just needed soldiers. They took Mexicans off the field and they [were sent] ... to war."

Joseph P. Ramirez


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

Joseph Ramirez turned the Army down when officers tried to keep him on at the end of 1945, asking him to serve six more months in World War II, at the promised rank of Sergeant.

Ramirez wanted to go home.

“I was certain I would be able to get a job in the Engineering Department,” he said, referring to Armor Institute of Technology, now Illinois Institute of Technology, from where he’d graduated before the war.

Ernest Quiroga


By Melissa Drosjack

As an Army entertainer, Ernie Quiroga had a very special audience during World War II – people liberated from concentration camps.

"I entertained persons that were in concentration camps and I always wondered why they were always in a daze," Quiroga said. "You couldn't tell too much, because they were in a daze."

Quiroga recalls playing his accordion, trying to aid their recovery.

"I was playing my accordion and one number that I played was a typical Mexican song -- Besame Mucho," Quiroga said. "They were still in a daze."

Benito Morales


By Kaz Edwards

Benito Morales sits perfectly still on his couch, adjusting only his hands, which lie neatly folded in his lap. Arranged next to him are various pieces of memorabilia from World War II, including a Bronze Star he received for heroic achievement in action.

But Morales doesn’t look at himself as a hero, merely one of the lucky few who made it through WWII alive and unscathed.

Val Martinez


By Emma Graves-Fitzsimmons

Nothing prepared Val Martinez for the icy winter night he landed in Marseilles, France, with the 103rd Infantry Division to prepare for combat in World War II. Martinez would spend more than nine months as a tank commander advancing across Central Europe, but says the first night was the coldest he can remember.

His unit and their German adversaries were both under constant fire as each tried to gain ground on the other, he recalls.

"Once we got going, we spent a lot of time chasing them," Martinez said. "Our outfit was a good outfit."

Tony Holguin


By Jason Weddle

Tony Holguin would rather talk about golf than about the time he spent as a soldier in the Army during World War II. He even says he might very well have been the Tiger Woods of his day.

To Holguin’s credit, there aren’t many people who at 22 can claim to have beaten the legendary golfing champion Sam Snead by six shots in a professional tournament. The fact that Holguin is of Mexican American ancestry made the feat that much more impressive for its time.

Fred Gomez


By Wesley Monier

To fulfill a promise made many years ago to a young soldier friend killed in battle, Ferdinand “Fred” Gomez named his oldest son Raymond. The two men vowed that if one of them died, the other one would name his first son after the other.

"I respected him a lot," Gomez said of his friend, Sergeant Raymond Valencia. "He never smoked, he never drank . ... He was just a very beautiful role model."