Marines

Manuel Rubin Lugo


By Haley Dawson

Manuel Lugo boarded a plane in Okinawa, Japan, in November 1969 on the last leg of his journey to Vietnam. From the U.S. mainland to Hawaii and then to Okinawa, the flights had been lively—chattering, joking, laughing. But “from Okinawa to Vietnam, you could have heard a pin drop,” Lugo remembered. “The atmosphere just changed from day to night.”

Felipe A Rangel


By Joshua Carniewski

Felipe Rangel was in the Korean War, was wounded, and lived to tell the tale. His memory isn't the best, but it's not because of the battle wounds.

Rangel was born in 1931 in Topeka, Kansas, and his childhood was like those of many others in the 1930's. He had seven brothers and six sisters, and he loved riding his bicycle and playing with his friends and brothers on the neighborhood street corners.

James Rendon


By Kristen Morado

James R. Rendon, born and raised in Laredo, Texas, gave up his last semester of high school and enlisted in the Marine Corps with no hesitation to serve his country in Vietnam.

Rendon, who enlisted on April 15, 1967, said he felt there was nothing else for him to do because a lack of resources meant that for him, like many other Hispanics, a higher education was not possible. He looked to the military for guidance and opportunity.

Alonzo Robert Rivera


By Ali Vise

Catching a midnight train in Fresno, Calif., Alonzo R. Rivera Jr., watched his mother, draped with a blanket, crying as she said goodbye. At that moment, the work of his childhood harvesting grapes and cotton became a thing of the past. He recalled his father’s departing word: “I’m going to see if you’re a real man now.”

As the son of migrant workers, “Junior” as his parents referred to him, spent summers in the agricultural fields. He is the oldest of three siblings, all of whom were farm workers.

Jesus Soto


By Bernice Chuang

About 14 months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Jesus “Joe” Soto, 20 years old, enlisted in the Marines as a private. His ship, the USS New Orleans, deployed for Pearl Harbor in October, just a few months before the attack.

Soto served proudly in the Marine Corps and said he found brotherhood and unity aboard his ship. While the war provided many frightening memories for Soto, he also found pride in his achievements as a Marine.

Oscar C. Muñoz


By Jordan Haeger

It's 3 a.m., and Oscar C. Muñoz wakes up to make sure his doors and windows are locked in his Chula Vista, Calif., home. It's been this way every day for more than 40 years.

Muñoz enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on April 15, 1968, without telling his parents. One of twelve children born to Manual and Abigail Muñoz, farm laborers in Arizona, he knew the military was his only way to access education and success.

"We used to pick cotton, and it was three cents a pound," Muñoz said. "Can you imagine how much cotton you have to pick to make one pound?"

Ricardo Garcia


By Caitlynn Taylor

“It was the worst thing to happen,” Ricardo Garcia said of his time in the 5th Marine Division in Okinawa.

Garcia spent 10 days on the front lines, waiting in the daylight and fighting and surviving bombings at night. It was on his 10th night, May 16, 1945, when the Japanese bombs got too close–an attack that proved fatal for many men.

Raul Munoz Escobar


By David Muto

Raul Escobar hesitates while recalling memories of bodies lying on the sands of Iwo Jima. He bows his head before continuing, repositioning a cap reading: “Once a Marine, Always a Marine.”

“I used to get so many flashbacks,” said the 82-year-old Escobar, breaking the silence that lingered after he recounted the story of a fellow Marine dying from a shot to the head.

Clemente L. Ramon


By Douglas Luippold

Wearing a blue Marine Corps vest and VFW garrison cap, Clemente Ramon recalled how the skills and education he received over three years as a Marine Corps fireman after World War II enhanced his family, finances and education.

Felipe de Ortego y Gasca


By Nathan Batoon

Felipe Ortego was a high school dropout in 1943, but after joining the Marine Corps and serving in the Pacific Theater, he’d awakened a new passion: writing. And that passion would imbue him with a new identity.

“The Marine Corps helped me, changed me a lot,” Ortego said. “From having a sense of invisibility to how vulnerable we were as human beings.”

Ortego was born in Blue Island, Ill., as his parents were traveling between San Antonio, Texas, and the sugar beet fields of Minnesota. He failed first and fourth grade because of language.