Racism

Gloria Lerma Rodriguez


By Stephanie M. Jacksis

The United States should have let the Vietnamese fight their own battle during the Vietnam War, said Gloria Lerma Rodriguez.

Among many other bizarre aspects of the war, which left many “mentally disturbed,” Lerma Rodriguez said, American soldiers at times slept with allies and enemies in the same foxhole.

“It was terrible, using innocent children with grenades hidden under their clothes. Very unjust. Thanks to God it’s over,” she said.

Richard Geissler


By Joshua Avelar

For Richard Geissler Jr., a U.S. Army veteran who became a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, passion for community activism shaped his life despite the many different communities he served and the overbearing obstacles he faced.

Jesus Soto


By Bernice Chuang

About 14 months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Jesus “Joe” Soto, 20 years old, enlisted in the Marines as a private. His ship, the USS New Orleans, deployed for Pearl Harbor in October, just a few months before the attack.

Soto served proudly in the Marine Corps and said he found brotherhood and unity aboard his ship. While the war provided many frightening memories for Soto, he also found pride in his achievements as a Marine.

Roque John Riojas


By Maxx Scholten

Gunning down loose poultry with his military-issued M1 rifle just to savor the sweet taste of fried chicken and collecting cowpie patties to burn to keep away the nip of mosquitoes -- these are some of the memories Roque Riojas has of his time with the 135th Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, fighting in Africa and Italy during World War II.

Estella Zaragoza Hernandez


By Ashley Nelcy Garcia

For Estella Zaragoza Hernandez, working in the fields under the sizzling California sun as a young girl was not much more than a child’s game.

It was part of her life, growing up as the youngest of six children, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who crossed the American border years before she was born. When she was a child, Hernandez’s family migrated from place to place picking crops and working the fields throughout California.

Oscar C. Muñoz


By Jordan Haeger

It's 3 a.m., and Oscar C. Muñoz wakes up to make sure his doors and windows are locked in his Chula Vista, Calif., home. It's been this way every day for more than 40 years.

Muñoz enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps on April 15, 1968, without telling his parents. One of twelve children born to Manual and Abigail Muñoz, farm laborers in Arizona, he knew the military was his only way to access education and success.

"We used to pick cotton, and it was three cents a pound," Muñoz said. "Can you imagine how much cotton you have to pick to make one pound?"

Emilio Portales


By Trent Lesikar

“All those bullets and none of them had my name on it,” Emilio Portales said with a laugh. Portales saw action on the front lines of U.S. Army campaigns in North Africa, Sicily, France and Germany during World War II. He survived the 1944 invasion of Normandy, fought in much of the European campaign, and witnessed the liberation of a concentration camp in Germany.

Richard Brito


By Priscilla Pelli

Missing the birth of his two daughters was one of the many sacrifices Richard Brito had to make when he saw that a war threatened the national security of the United States in 1965.

While Vietnam spurred controversy among many Americans throughout the 1960s, Brito said he saw it as a calling to help protect the security of the nation during a time of distress and turmoil.

“I loved the military,” Brito said. “That's what I wanted to do all my life.”

Angel Romero


By Samantha Salazar

One of nine siblings and the fourth of five brothers to fight in World War II, Angel Romero consistently returns to the subject of his family and friends, and the support he has always received from them.

Romero tears up when talking about his parents and siblings, saying, “My family would have to be defined as unique. I wish everybody had a family like mine.”

Martin C. Sanchez


By David Muto

Martin Sanchez was told after he returned from the war that he’d be welcome anywhere if he wore his military uniform out of the house.

Sanchez laughs while recalling this advice.

“We don’t serve no Mexicans here,” he said in the voice of a shop owner who denied him access to his store, even while Sanchez was dressed in the attire he’d received after enlisting. “You gotta go up by the railroad track up there.”