Samuel Padilla Echeveste

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Interviewed by
Michelle Lojewski
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Samuel Echeveste never saw himself becoming a decorated war veteran serving the U.S. during a time when he was not accepted by his fellow Americans.

His grew up in Miami, Arizona, where he was born on Christmas Eve 1932 to Aristeo Echeveste and Ramona Padilla. He was one of the youngest among four sisters and three brothers.

Once he graduated from Phoenix Technical High School in June 1951, Echeveste immediately volunteered for the Army.

After basic training, he continued training at Army Field Forces Leaders Course and then was assigned to Korea’s front lines.

Echeveste became a forward observer to the 81 mm mortar platoon. He was promoted from squad leader to sergeant first class, which gave him the title of platoon sergeant. At only 20 years old, he became the youngest U.S. soldier to serve in this position during the Korean War.

Echeveste received an honorable discharge June 15, 1954, and was awarded a Purple Heart, a Korean Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, a United Nations Service Medal, a Combat Infantry Badge and a National Defense Service Medal.

After his discharge, Echeveste returned home and attended Arizona State University, where he earned a bachelor of arts and a master's in education. He began working in the U.S. and then in Europe at schools for military dependents.

He married Berta Schreiber, and they had two daughters, Diana and Colleen.

His advice to future students: “God gives you good health and a healthy brain. Use it and go to school, and use it as much as you can. Learn as much as you can. Don’t expect things that are given to you.”