Moises Flores

By Deborah Bonn

During a brief trip home from the war in Japan, Moises Flores surprised a whole colony in Mexico that thought he’d been killed in combat.

Among those shocked by Flores' return was the sheriff in Chihuahua, Mexico’s Colonia Dublan, the town in which Flores was raised. Although he’d been born 200 miles across the border in Los Angeles, Flores was well known in the town where he spent his formative years. The lawman had heard of Flores' heroics abroad, and wanted to discover just how brave he really was.

Benigno Nevarez Diaz

By Veronica Olvera

Amid the horror of war in the European Theater, Benigno Diaz found himself in awe of the deadly efficiency of enemy forces, struck by "how accurate the German aviators were," he said.

Diaz served as a scout during World War II when he was just a teenager. He enlisted just shy of his 18th birthday and left his Los Angeles home for the frontlines of the war in Europe. While he managed to stay alive, he witnessed the fate of comrades who weren't as fortunate.

Alfredo A. Castro

By Erin Neck

Alfred Castro wears a cap that bears his medals on the outside but holds his memories of the war inside.

Now 80 years old, Castro vividly remembers the details of his life before, during and after the war and the men with whom he served in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

Born in LaVerne, Calif., on Jan. 27, 1922, Castro describes a simpler life than most children know today, living among orange orchards, going to school and playing baseball to stay out of trouble.

Tony Aguilera

By Yasemin Florey

Even though Tony Aguilera's childhood in an East Los Angeles barrio was once marked by poverty, he remembers it fondly.

"We were a very happy family," he said of his Mexico-born parents and 13 siblings. "We played marbles and tops and flew kites. We sent to the fields and caught rabbits."

Aguilera would leave his home and fond memories behind when, on March 4, 1942, he was drafted into the service as a member of a Texas infantry unit in Europe. Eventually, he’d become a prisoner of war in a German camp for 16 months.

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.

Trino J. Soto

By Cindy Carcamo

U.S. Navy veteran Trino Soto can't remember the exact date or location, but the image of his ship along with eight other destroyers traveling in the evening along the Pacific Ocean will forever remain in his mind.

"As we were going I was looking back, like this, because we were the flag ship. And, they were all staggered, one behind the other like that," Soto said. "That was the most beautiful sight I ever saw -- those nine destroyers going full steam."

Jessie Ortiz

By Cindy Carcamo

From a young age, Jessie Ortiz learned his Mexican American heritage would be an obstacle in a world dominated by what he calls the "white man's law." He would experience prejudice and discrimination -- even when he fought for his country in World War II. Looking back on his life, he recalls a story of constant struggle, survival and success on the battlefields of war and life.

Ortiz literally was born on the "wrong side of the tracks" -- the Southern Pacific Railroad Tracks, in Fresno, Calif. His parents, Felipa and Jose Ortiz, were Mexican immigrants.

Jesus Ochoa

By Raquel C. Garza

As a child, Jesus Ochoa once spent the 16th of September, a Mexican holiday celebrating independence from Spain, at home with his family. When he returned to school the next day, his teacher admonished him, saying missing classes was inappropriate because he was an American, not a Mexican.

When Ochoa returned from World War II, September 16 took on a new meaning -- he came back to the United States a veteran after being injured in battle.

William Carrillo

By Mario Barrera

William Carrillo knew he wanted to go into the Army Air Corps when he enlisted in 1942, but there was a problem: He didn’t have the required college degree for the Air Corps Cadet program. So on the application form the resourceful Carrillo entered "College of Hard Knox." By the time anybody noticed that Hard Knox was not an accredited institution, Carrillo was on his way to the cadet program. If he’d known how many hard knocks were in store for him in Europe, he might have had second thoughts.

Jose Robert Zaragoza

When Jose R. Zaragoza returned from World War II, he found an invigorated Los Angeles ripe with opportunities for younger generations of Latinos.

Zaragoza was born in Los Angeles, Calif. in 1920. His parents had emigrated with his two older brothers from Mexico to escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution. When he was 9, his family moved to the flatlands of Northern California right before the onset of the Great Depression. Although he did attend school in California for a short time, he quit to work in the fields.

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