Navy

Trino J. Soto


By Cindy Carcamo

U.S. Navy veteran Trino Soto can't remember the exact date or location, but the image of his ship along with eight other destroyers traveling in the evening along the Pacific Ocean will forever remain in his mind.

"As we were going I was looking back, like this, because we were the flag ship. And, they were all staggered, one behind the other like that," Soto said. "That was the most beautiful sight I ever saw -- those nine destroyers going full steam."

Peter De Leon


By Antonio Gilb

Peter De Leon considered himself lucky after returning home to Chicago after serving in World War II. At least 10 of his neighborhood friends came back in body bags.

The closest De Leon came to dying was a kamikaze attack off Okinawa in the Pacific Theater. The kamikaze pilot was aiming for a larger ship but missed. The gunners hit the plane, so it only hit the side of the ship.

Raúl A Chávez


By Amy Bauer

Aside from a move at 8 months of age, Raul Chavez had never traveled more than the 20 miles from Los Angeles to Catalina Island.

Born on Valentine's Day in 1926 in Chihuahua, Mexico, Chavez moved to East L.A. when he was an infant, during the Great Depression. His father, also named Raul, was a volunteer lieutenant in the California Militia State Guard and, thus, contributed to the war effort.

"I remember when I was going [to war] myself; he got a broomstick out and taught me the Manual of Arms," Chavez said.

Alvino Mendoza


By Haldun Morgan

"We were in Saipan when I had my first taste of combat. Not combat, [but] of bombs being dropped on us, trying to sink us. And I'm staring at the airplanes dropping, and I'm sure everyone is gonna hit us."

Before his initiation into World War II, Alvino Mendoza wondered what it would be like.

Raymond Sanchez


By Rhonda Miller

World War II veteran Raymond Sanchez went bird hunting once with a Navy buddy in South Texas. The two friends, both Latinos, decided to stop for a beer at a little tavern on Highway 72 between Kennedy and Three Rivers.

"We came to this shed outside and all the Hispanics or Mexican Americans were drinking outside," Sanchez said. "I says, 'Hey man, it's September and it's hot, why don't we go inside?'

“He says, 'Raymond, we can't,' and I asked, 'Why?'

“He says, 'It's just the way it is, you know.'"

Peter Salcedo


By Diana Lee

As a child in southern California, Pete Salcedo hid in embarrassment during lunch to eat homemade tacos.

"At that time you didn't have all these Mexican restaurants," Salcedo said. He thinks their growing popularity in mainstream America caused him to stop hiding his Mexican food.

Tizoc Romero


By Dennis Robbins

Although he faced criticism from minorities for fighting in the war, Tizoc Romero, a veteran of World War II, feels his involvement in the war opened the doors to a lifetime of achievement.

During the 1930s, or Great Depression period, many Americans, especially minorities, faced the hardships of poverty, war, discrimination and an economy that excluded many of them. Romero witnessed a troubled country.

Elias Guajardo


By Kristen Henry

Deep blue, purple, coral. Even 60 years after Jesse Guajardo served in the Navy the colors of the seas and oceans he traveled still strike him.

"I went to the Pacific, the Pacific is blue," Guajardo reminisced at his home in East Austin.

"You get down to the Coral Sea and it's just like somebody is drawing a line just like this right here," he said, drawing an invisible line in the air, to show how definite the change in the color of the water was to him.

Gilbert Castorena


By Christine Emmot

Growing up in the North Island neighborhood of San Diego, Ca., before World War II, Gilbert Castorena had a childhood filled with good memories of his family, friends and school days.

Those relaxing days changed in 1940 when Castorena signed up for the U.S. Navy. He was shipped out to fight, mostly in the Pacific Theatre, during World War II.

Lalo Campos


The yellow clapboard house with the 1990 Cadillac Seville parked outside is Lalo Campos' home. A Mexican American World War II veteran, he sits in a study that is covered with family portraits with his feet propped up in his walker. There is a distinct smell of Terra-gesic cream, similar to Ben-Gay, in the air -- which he uses to ease the pain in his feet. Campos has been a diabetic for 20 years and in 1992 the diabetes severed the nerve ends on his feet, which has made it very painful to walk.

Campos has come a long way in 75 years; he has even been around the world.