Education

Abel Vela


By Valerie Harris

Most people hope to retire around age 65, but hard-working Abel Vela stayed busy well into his 70s.

After 27 years in the Army and more than 30 years of owning and operating a number of McDonald’s franchises throughout San Antonio, Texas, the 81‐year‐old Army Major says volunteering for the Purple Heart Association and at his church have taken the place of work.

“And in my free time, I work for a young lady. Her name is Angela Vela, and she keeps me very busy,” said Vela with a laugh.

Natividad Campos


By Erika Jaramillo

World War II veteran Natividad Campos says he felt like an old man by the age of 9.

Kidnapped by his father at age 3 and raised by his Spanish-speaking grandmother, Campos, the oldest son of four, had no formal education when in 1930 he entered St. Valentine Elementary School in Valentine, Texas.

“It was hard for me. I wasn’t use to being around so many kids at one time,” said the 87-year-old, born on Christmas, 1921.

Nemesio Mena


By Danielle Flahrity

As his B-24 bomber turned to begin its bombing run, radio operator Nemesio Mena would carefully stand on the catwalk over the bomb bay and take pictures of the damage below.

After the bomb run, he would have to make sure no bombs were hanging in the bomb bay. If one of the highly explosive bombs was still in the plane, he would have to “trick” it into dropping by kicking it, as a B-24 can’t land with a bomb hanging from its bomb bay.

Francisco Vega


By Michelle Witters

San Antonio native Francisco Vega survived D-Day on Omaha Beach unscathed. That’s not to say he didn’t suffer acute pain later during the war, however.

Julius Moreno


By Jocelyn Ehnstrom

As a young kid, Julius Moreno enjoyed playing baseball, tending to his family’s farm animals at their home in San Antonio and singing in his neighborhood band called “The Holly Boys.”

But the first priority of Moreno’s father, Julio Moreno, Sr., was making sure all nine of his children, the second oldest of whom was Moreno, got a good education.

Manuel Camarillo


By Kayla Young

Peering through the door he’d just kicked in with his combat boots, the Manuel Camarillo serving on the front lines of World War II Germany was a different man from the one he’d been back in South El Paso. Back then, he’d started fights just for fun.

“I spent my time fighting. I wanted to fight anybody,” said Camarillo of his early teen years. “My oldest brother would get two or three guys in the morning. He would get them so I could fight with them. I went in [the alley] and I gave them a good whipping.”

Manuel P. Perez


By Jared Hill

Manuel Perez was one of the hundreds of thousands of Latino citizens forced by way of selective service to join the military after the United States joined World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. And just like many other Americans, Perez had to put his own life on hold to serve his country, even though he never stepped foot on the battlefield.

Sara Frances Garcia Valenzuela


By Jessica Eaglin

Sara Valenzuela’s strong work ethic has remained a mainstay throughout her life.

On July 31, 1924, Sara Frances Garcia was born in the small town of Edna, Texas – the first child of eight – to Henry Andrew Garcia, a mechanic, and Mary Cisneros Garcia, a homemaker.

"I was the leader of my family," Valenzuela said. "I had to be the example in my family and my role was to help my mother."

She grew up during World War II, a point in United States history that significantly changed American life, particularly for women.

Braulio Alonso


By Cheryl Smith Kemp

Of the many memories Braulio Alonso has of World War II, none stick out more than those tied to the liberation of Italy’s capital.

After Allied forces flooded Rome on June 4, 1945, some members of the 328th Field Artillery Battalion, part of the 85th Infantry Division, traveled from slightly south of Rome into the city.

“We took our driver and went into Rome,” said Alonso, who was Captain of Battery A.

Trinidad D. Botello


By Patrick Lynch

The story of the Botello brothers – Crisantos, Gregorio, John, Simon and Trinidad, who all served during World War II – is one of honor and bravery. And thanks to another of the brothers, their tales of heroism won’t be lost to time.

Younger sibling Thomas D. Botello wrote a booklet called “Proud I Served” about his brothers’ service in WWII, also detailing his family’s struggles back home. The narratives included present a glimpse into history from the perspective of a Mexican American family during that era.