Alberto Ramirez

By Stephannie Garcia

When Albert Ramirez was asked what his favorite thing about serving in the U.S. military was, he responded that it was the opportunity to serve his country; and although he did not say it, his second favorite part likely would have been the girls.

Ramirez, a Laredo, Texas native, grew up in a household that included 13 children, a mother who worked as a housewife and a father who taught him carpentry-- one of two loves of his life. His second love were the girls. In fact, it was a girl who prompted him to volunteer in the first place.

Emilio Torres

By Kristin LaFrate

When Emilio Torres enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18 on Sept. 18, 1942, little did he know he was beginning a more than 30-year military career spanning three wars.

Torres served in World War II and, later, in the Korean and Vietnam wars with the Army.

“We managed to get in with the ways of the people, and try to keep good relations with everybody,” said Torres of his interaction with civilians.

Luis Alfonso Diaz de León

By Julia Bulhon

“War is horrible, but it helps you grow,” said Navy veteran Luis Diaz de León, of witnessing conflict’s brutality first hand.

As if that weren’t enough, Diaz de León has also withstood racism, earned a master’s degree, raised a family and campaigned for a United States Senate seat within his lifetime.

Still a teenager, he entered the Navy on March 2, 1944. His rank: Quartermaster.

Ramiro G. Cortez

By Camri Hinkie

On August 6, 1944, United States Air Force gunner Ramiro Cortez was about to board a plane bound for Berlin, Germany, which would have been his sixth mission, had he gone through with it.

Cortez wasn’t originally assigned to this mission, but he agreed to go in place of his friend, another gunner named Kenneth Law. At the last minute, however, Kenneth changed his mind and took on the assignment instead of Cortez.

Benigno Gaytan

By Melissa Mendoza

“Most of my friends, they say, ‘Let’s join the Navy,’” said Benigno “Tony” Gaytan, when asked why he signed up for the Armed Forces during World War II.

“I said, ‘OK.’”

At 17, Gaytan was working as a stock boy at a five-and-dime store in Laredo, Texas. The United States had been involved in the war for more than a year. He recalled the irony of unpacking a shipment of clay toys marked “Made in Japan,” the country in which he’d soon find himself battling in the Pacific for his life and country.

Gilberto S. Treviño

By Marjon Rostami

Gilbert Treviño was a 19-year old junior at Texas A&M College when he was drafted for the war. When Treviño went to San Antonio, Texas, for his physical, he expressed an interest in the Marines, and eight months later, he was in combat.

“They didn’t waste any time,” he said.

Treviño was born in Laredo and grew up speaking Spanish. By the end of the war, all three of his brothers had served in the military: one in the Marines, one in the Army and one in the Navy.

Bob Sanchez

By Marcel Rodriguez

At age 17, Bob Sanchez volunteered for the U.S. Navy after two close friends were killed in combat. It was 1945, and his choice to enlist would set his life in a bold new direction. From Naval intelligence, to the University of Texas at Austin, to being a trial lawyer and activist in the Rio Grande Valley, the war and the university instilled in him a determination to make the world a better place, particularly for Latinos.

Raymond Muñiz

By Amanda Roberson

When Raymond Muñiz came home to Corpus Christi, Texas, after serving his country in World War II, he expected to see greater equality for Mexican Americans: more Latinos in city positions such as mayor, for example.

Unfortunately, Muñiz says he didn’t find this to be the case: Anglos were still in charge and Mexican Americans were virtually powerless.

Refugio Miguel Vasquez

One Valentine's Day, Mike Vasquez knocked on the door to the Cooremans' house with three boxes of chocolates for the daughters still living at home. Fourteen-year-old Wilhelmina, the youngest, answered the door. She was so shocked to discover the biggest box was for her she slammed the door and left Mike outside until her mother reminded her of her manners. Though Wilhelmina was too young for a relationship, the two kept in contact.

Leonard Vara Fuentes


Even after flying several successful missions over Italy during WWII, Leonard Fuentes was prepared to continue serving his country, and remained in the military after the war, serving in Korea.

Fuentes graduated from high school and wanted to attend trade school, so he began working odd jobs near Kelly Field and began saving for his education. After Pearl Harbor, Fuentes was compelled to join the war effort.

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