World War II

Odilon De Leon

By Jonathan Damrich

Odilon De Leon wore his Purple Heart in the middle of his cap, right below the spot where it read “Okinawa 1945.”

“I’m proud and happy that I served my country,” De Leon said, “even though I was disabled at the ripe old age of 17.”

The World War II veteran was badly burned May 3, 1945, when a Japanese plane flew into the port side of his ship, the USS LSMR-195, approximately 100 miles away from Okinawa.

The ship was carrying about 465 rockets, he said, which combined with the gasoline in the plane to create a “hellacious explosion.”

Anthony Acevedo

By Cathy Sze

It was 50 degrees below zero, one of the coldest winters Germany had seen in 50 years. A blanket of snow several feet high covered the ground.

Wearing only combat uniforms designed for warfare in the tropics, a group of about 40 Americans from the 275th Infantry Regiment trekked at gunpoint down to the bottom of Falkenberg Ridge, a rocky hill near Phillipsburg, where German army trucks awaited, recalled World War II veteran Anthony Acevedo.

These soldiers had been taken prisoner by the Germans, and 19-year-old Acevedo was one of them.

Abelardo Garcia

By Nikki Stanko

Rocking back and forth in a squeaky computer chair, hands folded in his lap, Abelardo Garcia chuckled as he relived having played match-maker for his fellow Army soldiers in a quaint beer hall in Czechoslovakia in 1945.

“I really enjoyed life, no doubt about that,” Garcia said.

As he relived his time in World War II, a distant smile never left Garcia’s face; proof that the elderly veteran clearly still cherished his days overseas.

“I had a good time because I never went to war,” Garcia said. “I was always in an office.”

Ysaac C. Elizalde

By Ever Figueroa

You don’t have to be in combat to be a veteran.

During World War II, Ysaac Elizalde provided the troops with the food necessary to give them enough energy to prepare for the horrors of combat. Elizalde would go on to make a career of this, delivering milk to thousands of homes in Corpus Christi, Texas, for more than 40 years.

Born in 1921 in Bee County, Texas, he doesn’t remember much from his youth. He says he didn’t feel the effects of the Great Depression to the same degree the rest of the country did.

Elias Ramirez Chapa

By Manesh Upadhyaya

Watching war movies about battle ships as a child in Beeville, Texas, created a yearning in Elias Chapa to enlist in the Navy.

At the age of 17, Chapa still wasn’t old enough to sign up for the Navy. Having three older brothers already in the military, however, it wasn’t hard for him to see what he wanted to do after high school. He waited a year for his 18th birthday, and then enlisted in the Navy on Feb. 5, 1943. Along with close Beeville friend Ray Salazar, Chapa began his career in the United States Navy.

Tomas Mata Treviño

By Brenda Menchaca

Born and raised in the small town of Beeville, Tomas Mata Treviño knew little about the world beyond his South Texas community when he was drafted into the Army in 1945.

Having never even ventured beyond Beeville's borders, he was scared when he received a draft letter two months after registering. About 40 other local residents were called to duty at the same time.

Alfred A. De La Cruz

By Donnie Hogan

Alfred Antonio De La Cruz made $2 per week working as a radio technician, while the military paid $17 per month, so joining the Army was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down.

De La Cruz says he has always had a passion for gaining knowledge and a determination to never be complacent. Growing up poor in San Antonio, Texas, he recalls his parents insisting he get an education and strive to be the best at whatever profession or trade he went into.

Ramiro Ramos

By Brandon Fried

Ramiro Ramos has spent much of his life just trying to get by.

Raised near the Texas-Mexico border, in the town of Salineno, Ramos was one of seven children born to Rita and Esteban Ramos in the early 1920s. He was born on Sept. 12, 1924.

“There were more than enough of us to play with,” said Ramos.

Berta Parra

By Rachel Taliaferro

Berta Parra’s memory is slipping away from her.

People, places, names, dates – as she sat in an armchair at the Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veterans Home, in her native city of El Paso, she worked through the gaps to tell her story. Despite the haze of a fading memory, a few images stood resilient in her mind – ironically, the images Parra had tried the hardest to forget.

Arnold Feliu Garcia

Arnold Feliu Garcia was born in San German, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 19, 1911, to Andres Garcia Lopez and Celia Feliu Servera. As a boy in Puerto Rico, he met and fell in love with Tomasita “Tommi” Ribas of Ponce. They soon parted, however, as he, his mother and three brothers; Benjamin, Gilbert and Isaac; followed their father’s work to Cuba, Tampa, Fla., and, finally, New York.