Army

Charles Paul Jones


By Catherine Murphy

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, Charles Paul Jones was no stranger to diversity. Jones’ neighborhood on the west side of town included Belgians, Germans, Hispanics, Italians and Lebanese.

“It was a Brooklyn Southwest, for lack of a better term,” Jones said. “We all learned about each other’s culture. … Everybody on the block got along.” He valued the experience of growing up in such a dynamic culture.

Felipe Ramirez III


By Voces Staff

A bullet in his chest and scars on his stomach were lifelong reminders of Felipe Ramirez's Vietnam War experience.

"The first round of bullets hit the machine gun. Before I knew it, I was hit. I felt something. I took a big dive and went behind a tree and said to another soldier, 'I'm OK, I'm OK,'" he said.

Ramon Rodriguez


By Zachary Romo, California State University, Fullerton

Standing in front of a judge, Ramon Rodriguez was given two options when he was 17: Go to jail or join the military. With his father’s approval, he chose to serve.

As a teenager in the late 1950s, Rodriguez had run wild on the streets of Wilmington, California. He was involved with gangs, including one case of grand theft auto. He claimed the reason for his behavior was a desire for adventure.

Philip Cervantes


Philip Cervantes mastered the science of destruction as a specialist in explosives and demolition in a military career during the earliest years of the Cold War.

Born in East Los Angeles, California, in 1929, Cervantes was the fourth of 11 children. His mother, Catalina Rodarte, tended to the household, and his father, Antonio Cervantes, was a carpenter in the construction business, venturing to destinations where work was available.

Cervantes began to work with his father while attending junior high school. He spent his Saturdays watering down concrete for him.

Hector Albert Padilla


By John Mazzullo

A lifelong athlete and a trailblazing educator and coach, Hector Albert Padilla is no stranger to the discipline, hard work and camaraderie that goes into assembling a strong team.

Padilla was born in Tucson, Arizona, on March 22, 1930, to Manuel and Concepcion Juarez Padilla. His father worked as a boilermaker for Southern Pacific Railroad, and his mother was a seamstress.

Andrew Soria Melendrez


By Voces Oral History Project

Andrew Melendrez lost his mother at 9 and his father a few years later. By 19, he had been drafted into the Army and would see brutal combat in Europe during World War II. He fought in some of the war's most harrowing battles, including what would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge, one of the last major German offensives.

"I grew up more," he said of his war experience. "I had more discipline, more respect for people. I was more considerate of others."

Raymond "Ray" Saucedo


By Jackie Rapp

If growing up in a family with 11 brothers and one sister doesn’t sound hectic enough, Raymond
"Ray" Saucedo’s family also didn’t just stay in one location. Saucedo's childhood consisted of summers when the family would load up a truck and wooden camper and head to Michigan, Ohio, or anywhere else that cherry-, strawberry- and tomato-picking migrant work led them.

“Wherever work was, we would go,” said Saucedo, who went on to serve in the U.S. Army in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

José Luis "Louis" Villalobos Jr.


By the Voces Staff

Louis Villalobos Jr., a senior in high school, weighed his options. He didn't have the money to go to college. He could wait to be drafted to serve in the Vietnam War, or he could enlist and hope to be assigned somewhere else, where he could learn a trade.

Samuel Padilla Echeveste


By Hayley Stern, Rutgers University

An elementary school teacher told Samuel Echeveste he would one day be defending his country.

The young boy sitting in that classroom in Miami, Arizona (about 70 miles east of Phoenix), would fulfill that prophecy, finishing basic training and being sent to the Korean War before his 20th birthday.

Echeveste never saw himself becoming a decorated war veteran serving the U.S. during a time when he was not accepted by his fellow Americans.

Robert Lee Polanco Sr.


By Kevin Bradley, St. Bonaventure University

Robert Lee Polanco Sr. sat on the plane, nervously biting his nails. The flight had left Texas nearly three hours earlier. They would be passing over the Pacific Ocean on their way to the other side of the world.

In 1971, Polanco was a soldier in the Army, returning to the war in Vietnam after “just a few days … not even a week” of absence.