POW (Prisoner Of War)

Catarino Hernandez


By Antonio Gilb

In the first days of the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, in Schmidt, Germany, American scouts reported that a division of German tanks and soldiers lay on the outskirts of town, ready to attack. To minimize casualties, officers hastily ordered the unit to abandon the area. But in their haste, the unit commanders left behind a handful of soldiers. Catarino Hernandez, an 18-year-old from Seguin, was among them.

Miguel Encinias


By Sonia Nezamzadeh

Miguel Encinias lived what he calls a "child's paradise." Born the youngest of 16 children -- 11 sisters and four brothers -- to Benito Encinias and Manuelia Lopez Encinias, he grew up enjoying photography, music and sports and attended church regularly with his family in New Mexico. In addition to being a student, Encinias delivered the Las Vegas Daily Optic newspaper. His father taught himself English and writing, and worked as a foreman on the second-largest ranch in the nation, in order to provide for his family.

William Carrillo


By Mario Barrera

William Carrillo knew he wanted to go into the Army Air Corps when he enlisted in 1942, but there was a problem: He didn’t have the required college degree for the Air Corps Cadet program. So on the application form the resourceful Carrillo entered "College of Hard Knox." By the time anybody noticed that Hard Knox was not an accredited institution, Carrillo was on his way to the cadet program. If he’d known how many hard knocks were in store for him in Europe, he might have had second thoughts.

Elias R. Zepeda


By Paul R. Zepeda and Maggie Rivas Rodriguez

Four stars hung in the front window of the house of 1608 Ave. L in Bay City, Texas, during WWII. Each represented a son of Guadalupe Zepeda, who fled from San Luis Potosí¬, Mexico, because he didn't want to take part in the Mexican Revolution, and Lina Rodriguez, who grew up in the area of San Marcos, Texas.

Isaac R. Zepeda


By Paul R. Zepeda and Maggie Rivas Rodriguez

Four stars hung in the front window of the house of 1608 Ave. L in Bay City, Texas, during WWII. Each represented a son of Guadalupe Zepeda, who fled from San Luis Potosí¬, Mexico, because he didn't want to take part in the Mexican Revolution, and Lina Rodriguez, who grew up in the area of San Marcos, Texas.

Abel Flores Ortega


By Joanne R. Sánchez

When Abel Ortega was growing up, his family used to call him "the big thinker." "I was thinking of ways to reach the Far East," he said.

He had seen magazine pictures of the Chinese and the Japanese. Later, he sat in a rocking chair and pondered travel to those far away, seemingly unreachable destinations.

"My father was not a rich man, so I did not expect to ever go and visit these countries," he said.

Leon Leura


By ISMAEL MARTINEZ

In the beginning of 1944, 22-year-old Tech. Pvt. Leon "Jack" Leura was among the American troops able to cross the raging Rapido River, and help gain control of Italy. That summer, a wounded Leura would be taken prisoner by the Germans, escape and then travel across Russia before he would return home.

Leura was in the 36th Division; Company A, 111th combat engineers. As a Tech 5th grade he discovered and destroyed mines.

Andrew Aguirre


By Kathryn Tomasovic

Andrew Aguirre's youth was overwhelmed with battlefield events that continue to haunt him to this day.

Aguirre was born in Vinton, Texas, on Jan. 4, 1925, and moved to San Diego three years later.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Aguirre's parents, Maximo and Sara Aguirre, struggled to feed and clothe nine children. All 11 members of the family lived in a tiny home, about 480 squared feet -- two rooms of about 12 feet wide and 20 feet long, with an outdoor toilet and a faucet for drinking water in the back.

Lorenzo Banegas


Lorenzo Banegas was one of more than 1,700 New Mexico National Guard soldiers taken prisoner on Bataan.

No state paid a higher price - more than 900 New Mexico captives died. Banegas survived, but even today - 72 years old and retired in Las Cruces - he agonizes over the terrible memories.

He survived the brutal Bataan Death March, where thousands of soldiers died of disease, torture and starvation. By 1943, he was a prisoner at Cabanatuan in the Philippines, suffering from diphtheria and beriberi.