El Paso

Juan Provencio

By Alex Cannon

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Juan Provencio knew what he had to do. As the war overseas had worsened, his father, Manuel, an immigrant from Mexico, had told his sons: "All of you men must be ready to go and help your country. You were born here, and you have been given many privileges that many don’t get. It is up to you now."

Manuel F. Calderon

By Cheryl Smith Kemp

Manuel Calderon’s crossed arms seemed to reflect his mood when asked if he was drafted into World War II.

“Of course,” replied Calderon, who served in the Army for four years.

Not happy about his afternoon routine at Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veterans Home in El Paso, Texas, having been interrupted, he was reserved and answered reluctantly. For example, when asked if he was surprised when drafted in October of 1941, he said, “Never thought about it.”

So he was surprised?

“No, not really.”

Juan Antonio Baez

By David Muto

Juan Antonio Báez remembers sitting with two fellow soldiers on a hillside, singing their favorite Puerto Rican songs. World War II had taken them far from their homeland, a nation, for Báez, of poverty and hardship.

“Terrible,” said Báez, describing the Puerto Rico of his youth. “I didn’t have anything.”

Ricardo Garcia

By Caitlynn Taylor

“It was the worst thing to happen,” Ricardo Garcia said of his time in the 5th Marine Division in Okinawa.

Garcia spent 10 days on the front lines, waiting in the daylight and fighting and surviving bombings at night. It was on his 10th night, May 16, 1945, when the Japanese bombs got too close–an attack that proved fatal for many men.

Berta Parra

By Rachel Taliaferro

Berta Parra’s memory is slipping away from her.

People, places, names, dates – as she sat in an armchair at the Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veterans Home, in her native city of El Paso, she worked through the gaps to tell her story. Despite the haze of a fading memory, a few images stood resilient in her mind – ironically, the images Parra had tried the hardest to forget.

Angel Romero

By Samantha Salazar

One of nine siblings and the fourth of five brothers to fight in World War II, Angel Romero consistently returns to the subject of his family and friends, and the support he has always received from them.

Romero tears up when talking about his parents and siblings, saying, “My family would have to be defined as unique. I wish everybody had a family like mine.”

Manuel Vera

By Eric Latcham

On Jan. 27, 1945, in freezing, blizzard-like conditions,, Sgt. Manuel Vera was wounded in action in Nennig, Germany, when an explosion sent shell fragments into his right leg.

Having grown up in Nebraska during the Great Depression, Vera understood how to survive. As a child, he said, his parents instilled in him the values of perseverence, discipline and a respect for others. These traits served him well during his time in Company K of the 302nd Infantry Regiment, 94th Infantry Division.

Felipe T. Roybal

By Mary Mejia

Felipe T. Roybal decided in June 1940 to help out his family financially and unwittingly began a military career that spanned more than 30 years.

Roybal's parents, Vicente and Isidra Roybal, were among the founding families of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the town where he was born. Before the Great Depression, his father and uncle owned a grocery store that brought in enough revenue to allow Roybal's mother to stay at home and raise Roybal, his two brothers and a sister.

"We played around. Baseball, softball, whatever," he said.

Estela Fernandez

By Jenn Zwillenberg

Estela Fernandez was a young woman in El Paso, Texas, when World War II began, so the battlegrounds seemed distant.

Wartime wasn’t about soldiers and combat. Instead, while her husband Johnny was away, she learned how to care for her family, hold a job and value education and family. She and Johnny had married on Nov. 26, 1944, at which point Johnny had already been drafted into the Army and stationed at Ft. Devins in Massachusetts as an amphibious engineer, Fernandez recalls.

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