Puerto Rico

Carmen Irizarry Albelo

By Sylvia Mendoza

When Carmen Albelo sailed from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to the United States in 1939, she envisioned a land of opportunity and freedom, not war, discrimination and loneliness.

"When I came here I thought I was going to have a better life, but it wasn't like that,'' Albelo recalled.

Higinio Albelo

By Luisito Caleon

The choppy seas north of Scotland were dark.

A dense fog enveloped the Navy ship loaded with ammunition destined for Normandy, the site of the beginning of the end of World War II.

The ship, on its way to help with the liberation of France, was stuck on uncharted rocks, and Higinio Albelo remembers he and his mates thought they were facing death.

"It was a 27-man gun crew. We were supposed to take care of the guns on ship and take care of the cargo. We were in a big convoy of close to 250 ships," Albelo said.

José Blas García

By Doralis Perez-Soto

In December 1941, 18-year-old José Blas García traveled from his neighborhood of Trastalleres, an area among the swamps and mangrove trees near Caño de Martín Peña in Santurce, Puerto Rico, with four friends to enlist in the military at Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico. Of the five, only two were chosen, and young García was one of them. He says he had nothing better to do at the time.