World War II

Rose P. Sandoval

By Gabrielle Muñoz

When Germany invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939, Rose Sandoval was nearly 5,500 miles away in Torres, Colo., where she grew up on her family’s cattle ranch. But like countless others, Sandoval experienced the war in the confines of her own home when her oldest brother, Leo Vallejos, was deployed overseas as a member of the Army. Her brother’s military service brought the war to Torres, located in the mountains of southern Colorado 30 miles northwest of Trinidad.

Ramiro G. Cortez

By Camri Hinkie

On August 6, 1944, United States Air Force gunner Ramiro Cortez was about to board a plane bound for Berlin, Germany, which would have been his sixth mission, had he gone through with it.

Cortez wasn’t originally assigned to this mission, but he agreed to go in place of his friend, another gunner named Kenneth Law. At the last minute, however, Kenneth changed his mind and took on the assignment instead of Cortez.

Henry McDonnell

In 1945, Henry McDonnell battled through Germany as a part of the 17th Airborne Division; 60 years later, he returned to Europe with his sons.

Henry and his three sons, Bernard, Henry Jr. and Mark, traveled to the Netherlands in 2005 so they could visit the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial. Among the 8,301 graves was a white headstone for Bernard McDonnell, Henry’s youngest brother.

Jesse T. Campos

By Jordan Godwin

Jesse Campos wears a World War II Veteran hat garnished with a dozen medals and pins that magnify his 5-foot frame. Taking off the hat reveals the same impressively full head of hair he’s had all his life.

“I’ve earned this hat,” Campos said. “And everything on it.”

Alex Rodriguez

As a little boy, Alex Rodriguez, Jr. never understood why so many people who know his father, Alex Rodriguez, treated him with the utmost respect.

Later in life, while reading his father’s accounts as an infantryman in the European Theater during World War II, and, later, a prisoner of war in a German camp, Alex began to understand.

Although Rodriguez Sr. passed away in 2006, his son knows he’d be glad his story will finally be known.

Manuel Perez, Jr.

Twenty-two-year-old Manuel Pérez, Jr. was killed in action on March 14, 1945, on the road to Santo Tomas in Southern Luzon in the Philippine Islands.

Private First Class Pérez served as a paratrooper in the 11th Air Borne Infantry Division and was the lead scout for Company A of the 511th Parachute Infantry. A month before he was killed by a sniper bullet, he’d qualified for the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor. On Feb. 28, 1945, he wrote the following to his uncle, Private Jesse Pérez, who was also in the South Pacific:

Manuel Sierra Pérez

By Brenda Menchaca

Manuel Sierra Pérez sits on a chair at a desk cluttered with photographs of his children at a young age and a University of Texas coffee mug, among other items.

“I have everything on the desk. I don’t even have to move,” Pérez said.

From his desk, he still writes to his friends from the war, who he met more than 50 years ago. Joining the Army was an eye opener for him in many ways: other cultures, ideas, education and opportunity.

Raul Baca Martinez

By Taylor Fishytnt

Raul B. Martinez spent four years in the Army’s Combat Corps of Engineers in World War II.

The combat engineers went in first, then the assault troops. Their job: keep the Army moving.

Manuel Robles

By May-Ying Lam

Manuel Robles, an 85-year-old World War II veteran, grasps a gold- and black-edged frame with steady fingers. In the center is a faded black and white photograph with a beaming young soldier frozen in time.

Joe Vargas

By Eva Hernandez

The air is rife with the sounds of men preparing for battle on the front lines. This is the real deal, and Private Joe Vargas is ready. He lumbers off the back of the Army truck – just barely – and moves forward.

Two bandoliers of M1 clips are strapped to his chest and he is armed with as many grenades as he can carry. The first lieutenant meets him with a critical eye.