World War II

Rafael C. Medrano


By Kaitlyn Clement

Rafael Cantu Medrano left his Texas hometown to join the military in 1940. Four years later, he landed at a Normandy beach four days after D-Day. He was wounded in combat and was awarded a Bronze Star.

Medrano fought to support his family while he grew up during the Great Depression and then fought all the way to Germany.

Carmel Sandoval Camacho


By Ajay Patel

Carmel Camacho's father told him as a young boy that, if he was kind to other people, then he would never have trouble getting along with anyone. Camacho took his father's words to heart, working as a medic in the Army, bringing comfort and healing in World War II and the Korean War.

Drafted at age 19, Camacho became part of a 17-man U.S. Army medical unit one year later. He initially served from 1942 to 1946, but his military career spanned World War II through the end of major hostilities with the Korean War armistice in 1953.

William Zermeno


By Yiyi Jennifer Yang

It took a war for William Zermeno to leave his hometown, Houston, and his beloved family. The Zermeno family shared a very close bond -- the brothers, particularly, would play and hang out together even as they grew older.

“We got along well. We played tag, hide-and-seek, rolled tires, made cars out of clay, and played army,” Zermeno said. “My parents were really strict, but very loving and kind. They always advised us to be good students in school.”

Miguel Villa


By Veronica Rosalez

With the many hardships that their family faced throughout World War II, military veterans Mike Villa and his brothers, Raymond and Joe, were grateful that they all returned home safely to the United States.

Raymond Villa was the eldest brother and Joe was the youngest. Mike Villa was born on May 7, 1922, in Yorktown, Texas, about 70 miles southeast of San Antonio. When Mike Villa was eight years old, Simona Hernandez-Villa, passed away from an illness.

Joe Villa


By Ashley Hord

As an Army veteran, Joe Villa has experienced his ups and down throughout life. From coming close to death as a baby to venturing through Nazi territory, the 83-year old has seen more than what his small Texas town ever expected.

Vicenta Sanchez Lopez


By Mary Mejia

In 1938, Vicenta Sanchez Lopez became the first Mexican American woman to graduate from her high school in her predominantly Anglo home town of Sonora, Texas, about 200 miles west of Austin. Just one year earlier, the first Mexican American man graduated from Sonora High School.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, she said, Anglos controlled Sonora and discriminated against minorities.

Albino Pineda


By Claire Carroll

“Pinda!” a corporal yelled.

The young Mexican American soldier stood quietly in line. He did not address the corporal or any of his peers.

“Pinda!” the corporal bellowed out once more.

The young soldier felt nervous. It was his first day, and he couldn’t speak English proficiently.

“P-I-N-E-D-A!” the corporal spelled out impatiently.

The young Latino finally stepped forward. Before he could correct the pronunciation, the corporal screamed at him, “Wake up, soldier!”

Paul Ybarra


By Claire Gordon

Paul Ybarra does not see himself as a hero, even though he survived the bloody Normandy Invasion and a mistaken Allied bombing, and he was about to be deployed to the Pacific when World War II ended. All he did, in his view, was perform his duty to his country.

When America joined the war in 1941, Ybarra was 17. But he was drafted almost immediately after turning 18. Most of his friends and two of his seven brothers were also called to serve.

Johnnie Ramos Gonsalez


By Alyson Espino

Johnnie Gonsalez can't recall much of his time serving in the military, but he remembers how grateful he was to make it back home alive.

Born in the small city of Florence, Kansas, Gonsalez grew up with three brothers and two sisters. He boxed with his brothers for fun in the backyard and stuck closely to his mother and father. By the sixth grade, Gonsalez had dropped out of school and begun working as a flagman on the railroad lines with his father.

Although he grew up during the Great Depression, he never felt it hit home.

Miguel Morado


By Sarah Griffin

While he sat in his foxhole, 23-year-old Mike Morado was scared and cold, and wondering if he would survive World War II or even make it to his 24th birthday.

Little did he know that his moment of fear and apprehension would become a pivotal event that would shape the way he lived the rest of his life. Because of that moment, Morado decided to devote the rest of his life to doing volunteer work. He said his experiences in WWII taught him to appreciate life and give back to society as much as he could.