San Diego

Neftali L. Zendejas

By Layne Victoria Lynch

As 80-year-old Neftali L. Zendejas looked back on the memories of his childhood before his service in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, he reminisced about how he knew he wanted to work with aircrafts at an early age.

Way back when his father was working the farm of a Japanese family that had been sent to an internment camp during World War II, Zendejas said he ventured into a nearby airfield, to admire a Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft.

Davie Elizardo

By Israel Saenz

Davie Elizardo never asked for much. For a woman who grew up without an education, doing field labor throughout the day and watching one of her brothers go off to fight in the Pacific, the wellbeing of her family is all she needs.

"I just want that my grandchildren find good work and not have to struggle," Elizardo said. "They have very good opportunities."

To struggle and work hard to get by was so much a way of life for Elizardo, she hardly noticed it.

Domingo Zatarian

By Donetta Nagle

Domingo Zatarian looked on a map and set out to find his brother's division shortly after the Battle of the Bulge had ended in Europe.

And he found him. There was Marty in a ditch, doing the last thing Zatarian would have imagined: singing the song "Swinging on the Star."

"He was singing 'Would you rather be a mule?' or some such thing," said Zatarian, a smile on his thin lips.

John Rubalcava

By Alexandra Ritchie

Frigid nights out in the snow. Soldiers huddled together for warmth, exposed to the elements and at the mercy of German firepower. Mangled bodies of half-dead soldiers screaming, "Medic, medic!" into the dark. For more than 40 years, these memories have haunted John Rubalcava, who lost countless friends on the battlefield of Europe during World War II.

"You feel terrible when you see your friends get killed," Rubalcava said. "It's something that hits you in the stomach and stays with you."

Tizoc Romero

By Dennis Robbins

Although he faced criticism from minorities for fighting in the war, Tizoc Romero, a veteran of World War II, feels his involvement in the war opened the doors to a lifetime of achievement.

During the 1930s, or Great Depression period, many Americans, especially minorities, faced the hardships of poverty, war, discrimination and an economy that excluded many of them. Romero witnessed a troubled country.

Jose Ramirez

By Will Potter

Jose Ramirez remembers his first job: selling newspapers in downtown San Diego. After walking two miles home at the end of his first day of work, he proudly told his parents he earned 3 cents.

He was only 8 years old.

By the time he was 12, he was paying for his own clothing and some other expenses, so his parents wouldn’t have to support him as much. He worked to ease the burden on his parents so they could support his 10 siblings, he said.

Andrew Esparza

By Jacob Collazo

In the late 1930s, as war intensified in Europe, the United States was coming out of the Depression, but not yet directly involved in the War. In San Diego, a high school student named Andrew C. Esparza was biding his time: anticipating that he would serve his country, but enjoying his youth.

Gilbert Castorena

By Christine Emmot

Growing up in the North Island neighborhood of San Diego, Ca., before World War II, Gilbert Castorena had a childhood filled with good memories of his family, friends and school days.

Those relaxing days changed in 1940 when Castorena signed up for the U.S. Navy. He was shipped out to fight, mostly in the Pacific Theatre, during World War II.

Lalo Campos

The yellow clapboard house with the 1990 Cadillac Seville parked outside is Lalo Campos' home. A Mexican American World War II veteran, he sits in a study that is covered with family portraits with his feet propped up in his walker. There is a distinct smell of Terra-gesic cream, similar to Ben-Gay, in the air -- which he uses to ease the pain in his feet. Campos has been a diabetic for 20 years and in 1992 the diabetes severed the nerve ends on his feet, which has made it very painful to walk.

Campos has come a long way in 75 years; he has even been around the world.

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