Maria R. Garcia

By the time her husband began pushing the idea of greater participation by Mexican Americans in her small South Texas town, Maria Ramirez Garcia had developed a strong and broad network of contacts who could support the effort.

Garcia was born July 2, 1940, in Taft, Texas, 136 miles southeast of San Antonio. She and her sisters worked in a segregated movie theater while her mother, father and five older brothers were migrant workers in the cotton fields.

Gilbert Paul Sanchez

By Cara Henis

Gilbert Sanchez not only survived the Pacific typhoon of 1944 that capsized three U.S. Navy destroyers and killed 790 people, he also witnessed the largest aircraft carrier skirmish in the Pacific during the Battle of the Philippines Sea that same year.

Serving as a Navy radioman aboard the USS Macdonough, Sanchez took part in nine military offensives across the Pacific. He also witnessed the sinking of a Japanese submarine near New Guinea in April 1944 and the shelling of enemy troops in January of that year on Parry Island, in the Marshall Islands.

Mike & Mrs. Betty Silva

By Wanda Lopez

At 80, Mike Silva reflects on his World War II service and how he was foolish to volunteer for a conflict that still moves him to tears decades later.

Silva was wounded during the war and saw many fellow soldiers die. He also cannot shake the memory of hungry children in the streets of Europe.

"I wanted to go because I was a dummy," he said, laughing at his own naïveté.

"When they asked who wanted to receive special training, I raised my hand. That's where they taught me how to save or kill other people."

Betty Chavez Silva

By Jenny Murphy

Engulfed by a huge armchair, 78 year-old Betty Chavez Silva reflects on her memories growing up in New Mexico, remembering two older brothers who went off to serve in World War II.

Silva smiles when she talks about her two brothers. She remembers her parents were upset the boys had to drop out of college to fight in the war.

She remembers the letters written by her brothers to her parents, which often mentioned girlfriends to whom they’d one day return.

Teodoro Garcia


Teodoro Garcia grew up poor in Presidio, Texas, a small border town, during the Great Depression. To relieve the family's burden, he left home in Clovis, N.M., to live with his grandmother in Presidio. Garcia only reached the fifth grade before having to leave school to earn a living, though his brothers and sisters back home were allowed to finish.

"Life was tough and I had to help," Garcia said.

At that time Garcia remembers Presidio as being "pura raza," everyone was Mexican and everyone was Catholic. And everyone was poor.

Jose Cuellar

By Peggy Hanley

Jose "Joe" Cuellar volunteered to be a scout in the South Pacific during World War II because scouts were considered leaders by his fellow soldiers. At the tender age of 18, Cuellar was convinced he wanted to be a leader, and being a scout fulfilled that yearning.

His desire to lead started developing at an early age, when he was forced to fend for himself and his family as a youth in Albuquerque, N.M. Cuellar says his strong work ethic helped him survive the experiences of war in the South Pacific.

Delfina Josepha Lujan Cuellar

By Amanda Crawford

Delfina Lujan Cuellar grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., at a time when girls were expected to become mothers and wives. Like many Mexican American girls of her generation, she wasn’t allowed to attend school after the eighth grade.

"We were very deprived of getting more education," Cuellar said. "They thought that we would be too free and have babies before marriage and things like that, and so I didn't go to high school."

Dennis Baca

By Karen Matthews

Dennis Baca still cries when he thinks of the friends he lost during World War II. Even now, 57 years after his discharge from the U.S. Army, his voice becomes choked with emotion as he recalls the battles, the hardships and the deaths that marked his days in the South Pacific.

A soft-spoken 76-year-old with a gentle face, Baca is uncomfortable talking about himself or his war experiences. He doesn't see his service during WWII as anything heroic. He was just doing his job, he says.

Albert Jose Angel

By Israel Saenz

After joining the Army during World War II, New Mexico native Albert Angel began fretting he’d spend the entire war fixing airplanes stateside, so he found his supervisor and confronted him:

"You're wasting your time and mine too," Angel remembered saying. "I wanna go overseas."

Angel, now 81, served in the European Theater from 1943 to 1945 as a teletype worker with the 784th B-24 Bomber Squadron, part of the 466th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force. He was stationed near Norwich, England, at Attle Bridge Air Base from March of 1944 to July of 1945.

Antonio Trujillo

By Elizabeth Robertson

Despite the terror surrounding him on the mountainous Japanese island of Okinawa during World War II, Marine Cpl. Antonio Trujillo always found himself volunteering for missions that no one else wanted.

He’d been told repeatedly by fellow soldiers to hold back and not volunteer for dangerous assignments. But for Trujillo, volunteering was a matter of pride.

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