Navy

Jose Solis Ramirez


By Andrea Shearer

While the USS Gleaves Destroyer Escort was cruising the waters of the Philippines, Jose Ramirez was high up in the poop deck, looking for signs of the enemy through the scope of a 44-mm anti-aircraft gun. In quieter moments between battles, Ramirez was filling requests for Spanish serenades.

"They'd say, 'Come on Joe, sing that song again while some of us go to sleep while you're singin,'" he recalled.

Cayetano Casados


By Anjali Desai

Cayetano Casados had a floating, front row seat for the historic Normandy Invasion of World War II.

"We were the first ship to be fired on and the first ship to fire in the invasion," said Casados of the campaign that led to the allied victory over Germany.

"We had some very close calls. Sometimes there would be shrapnel all over you. But I was very fortunate, I only lost one man," he said.

Manuel Joseph Aguirre


By Angela Macias

Manuel Aguirre’s small stature prevented him from joining the Marines, but it didn’t keep him from doing his part in the war effort.

After hearing President Franklin D. Roosevelt tell the nation the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, Aguirre knew he had to get into the service somehow.

"What's going to happen now, I wonder," said Aguirre of his thoughts after hearing the news on the radio. "I thought if I had to go, I'd go."

Edward B. Vasquez


By Andrea Williams

For Edward Vasquez, the war years represented the ultimate adventure for a boy given to impetuous feats.

A Mexico-born mother and Texas father’s middle child of seven, Vazquez remembers being taunted by his older siblings and pestered by the younger ones. As a result, he learned early to find entertainment outside of the home.

Emma Villareal Hernandez


By Adrienne M. Cody

One needn't go further than Emma Hernandez’s own family, well-known in their community of Pharr, Texas, for their humanitarian efforts, to understand why she has devoted her life to civic service.

Concepcion Pompa


By Mark Lavergne

Donning a green flight jacket and a black hat emblazoned in gold capital letters with the words "Purple Heart," 78-year-old Concepción Pompa looks like a retired man able to indulge in his memories.

But that relaxed image belies a storied 40-year military career highlighted by a tour of duty in the South Pacific. Pompa started his military career when he volunteered for World War II, beginning a record of faithful service.

Gilberto Ornelas


By Ismael Martinez

Gilberto Ornelas saw the aftermath of one of the most important yet horrific inventions of the 20th Century. His experience almost killed him but granted him many opportunities.

Rafael Hernandez


By Juliana Torres

Though also a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Rafael Hernandez says it was World War II that created significant opportunities for Latinos.

Delmiro Isidro Elizondo


By Jane Slater and Chris Schulz

It was a Sunday in 1941 when Delmiro Isidro Elizondo bought a movie theater ticket. As he did, he learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

His life would never be the same again.

His day, as always, had begun at 5 a.m., when he opened the family's grocery store on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas. At noon, he hopped on a bus to the city and caught a double feature at the theater.

But Dec. 7, 1941, would alter his routine and bring him closer to his destiny. By the following year, he’d be inducted into the service.

Luis Reyes Davila


By Liliana Velazquez

Lying on the deck of the USS Tripoli on a quiet night on the Pacific Ocean, Luis Reyes Davila felt at peace in a time of war. During this brief respite from battle, with the soothing waves splashing against the aircraft carrier and the twinkling stars above, he thought of the peaceful life back in El Paso, Texas, that he left behind to serve his country.

"I used to think about home, how things would be back home," Davila said.