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.

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.

Anthony Acevedo

By Cathy Sze

It was 50 degrees below zero, one of the coldest winters Germany had seen in 50 years. A blanket of snow several feet high covered the ground.

Wearing only combat uniforms designed for warfare in the tropics, a group of about 40 Americans from the 275th Infantry Regiment trekked at gunpoint down to the bottom of Falkenberg Ridge, a rocky hill near Phillipsburg, where German army trucks awaited, recalled World War II veteran Anthony Acevedo.

These soldiers had been taken prisoner by the Germans, and 19-year-old Acevedo was one of them.

Manuel Juarez

By Cheryl Smith Kemp

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, 14-year-old Manuel Juarez was raring to go.

“I had been keeping up with the war in Europe, so I was more or less aware of what was going on,” recalled Juarez more than 60 years later.

His parents, Augustin Juarez, an orange- and lemon-grove laborer, and Belen Sanchez Juarez, a housewife, gave him permission to enlist, but not until he turned 17.

Arthur Muñoz

By Brenda Menchaca

“There are no barriers unless you make them yourself,” said Arthur Muñoz, who enlisted in the Marine Corps two weeks after Pearl Harbor.

While working as a Western Union messenger in Corpus Christi, Texas, he’d been delivering telegrams to the federal building where Armed Forces recruiting offices were located.

“[I] always thought Marines looked sharper in their blues,” so when the time came to choose a military branch, Muñoz recalled saying, “that’s for me, that’s where I’m going.”

Manuel Robles

By May-Ying Lam

Manuel Robles, an 85-year-old World War II veteran, grasps a gold- and black-edged frame with steady fingers. In the center is a faded black and white photograph with a beaming young soldier frozen in time.

Henry Rodriguez

By Hope Teel

Out of work with eight mouths to feed, Henry Rodriguez’s family left California in the early 1930s during the beginning of the Great Depression.

For Rodriguez, the family’s youngest member, the trip marked his first experience with racial discrimination.

“People didn’t know anything about backgrounds,” Rodriguez said. “People thought there were only Anglos and Indians, and we were Indians.”

As the family traveled across several states, Rodriguez watched his parents persevere, despite weather, racial and financial obstacles.

Marshall Gonzales Vasquez

By Caprice Padilla

Turned away on his first attempt to join the Army because of a bad eye, Marshall Vasquez’s determination and will were fierce. Sitting next to his serviceman photo and an array of framed medals, Vasquez, who by showing courage and leadership overseas, proved he was as good as, if not better, than soldiers without a disability, told us his story.

Enrique Cervantes

By Cary-Anne Olsen

A four-line poem written on a birthday card had more influence on World War II Air Force pilot Lieutenant Colonel Henry "Hank" Cervantes than his teacher could have ever imagined.

"On my eighth birthday, Miss Neilmeyer, my third-grade teacher, gave me a card on which she had written,

'Dream your dreams upon a star

Dream them high and dream them far.

For the dreams we dream in youth,

Makes us what we are.'

I thought it had to do with flying-high, stars [and] ‘far,’ and I began thinking about being a pilot at that age."

Abner Carrasco

By Juliana Torres

During the landing at Salerno, Abner Carrasco was shooting at a German Panzer, a heavily armored tank, when its turret suddenly pivoted and pointed directly at him. Facing his potential death, Carrasco kept firing and was surprised when the tank drove off.

He’d spent his childhood working odd jobs, from picking tomatoes to caddying at country clubs or setting up pins in bowling alleys. He says he joined the Texas National Guard in 1938 "for fun," not thinking the United States would ever go to war.

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