Kansas City

Solomen M Rangel

By Caroline Flores

He may only have had an eighth-grade education, but Solomen Rangel knew to stand up for his beliefs and how to get ahead. He not only enlisted and became a sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II, he later fought employment discrimination on the home front.

Miguel Morado

By Sarah Griffin

While he sat in his foxhole, 23-year-old Mike Morado was scared and cold, and wondering if he would survive World War II or even make it to his 24th birthday.

Little did he know that his moment of fear and apprehension would become a pivotal event that would shape the way he lived the rest of his life. Because of that moment, Morado decided to devote the rest of his life to doing volunteer work. He said his experiences in WWII taught him to appreciate life and give back to society as much as he could.

Ben Santillan

By Nicole Chisum

The turmoil of World War II was difficult for everyone who endured it, but perhaps even more so for people who felt left out of mainstream society.

People like Ben Santillan.

Santillan was born on Feb. 13, 1925, near Kansas City, Kan. When he was about 7 years old, his family moved to Argentine, a suburb of Kansas City, and lived in the Mexican part of the town known as el campo. It was far from luxurious, and it was segregated -- Mexicans and non-Mexicans.

Ricardo Leon Martinez

By Mosettee Lorenz

By the time he was 22, Kansas native Ricardo León Martinez had dropped out of high school, gotten married and had four children, and he was at risk of going to prison for fighting and drinking.

But when he headed for Vietnam in the mid-1960s, he found a new perspective. In the years after the war, Martinez returned to school, got a college education and worked for the federal government for 34 years.

Alex J. Hernandez

By Tarrah Miller

“Baby killer!” were the words Alex Hernandez heard when he returned to the United States after 19 months in Vietnam, and he remembered it was a small boy, about 4 or 5 years old, who yelled them.

The Army veteran recalled that the child, at an airport in San Francisco, pointed his finger at him as his parents lingered in the background, laughing and egging him on.

“[Until] this day I think they were waiting for me to do something to that child. All I did was stared down the boy’s parents, and they grabbed him and left in a hurry,” Hernandez said.

Henry Segura

By Michael Broker

Henry Segura grew up during the Great Depression in the area known as the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Kan., in a family of 10 children to parents who were Mexican immigrants.

His father worked for the Armour Company, a slaughterhouse in the neighborhood, and his mother sewed dresses for women in the neighborhood. Although Segura said that his family did not struggle financially and that his father “seemed like he always had a job,” he would not agree that his family always had enough to live on.

Roque John Riojas

By Maxx Scholten

Gunning down loose poultry with his military-issued M1 rifle just to savor the sweet taste of fried chicken and collecting cowpie patties to burn to keep away the nip of mosquitoes -- these are some of the memories Roque Riojas has of his time with the 135th Regiment, 34th Infantry Division, fighting in Africa and Italy during World War II.

Robert Soltero

By Courtney Mahaffey

Robert Soltero can barely remember details of the Depression, but his memories of discrimination during that era remain vivid.

"In those days, you couldn't even go downtown," said Soltero, who grew up in a west-side community of Kansas City, Mo., in the 1930s. "We [Latinos] had to stay in our own background."

Soltero's father, Luis Soltero, worked three jobs, including ones at the Cudahy Packing House and a hotel room service to help support Soltero, his older brother, Tony, and sister, Connie.

Mac Ortega Salazar

By Christina Rucker

Born Feb. 28, 1925, World War II veteran Mac Salazar grew up the youngest of 13 children in Kansas City, Kan.. He calls himself and his siblings "Depression babies," but says they lived well, always having enough tortillas, frijoles and soup to get by.

It wasn't long before Salazar was heading to the classroom.

"I remember the first day of school. They took me and they left me in the kindergarten there," Salazar said. "I can remember who took me, who I saw and I can remember a girl there."

Joe Jaime

By Ryan Martinez

After a childhood spent dealing with discrimination in a small Kansas City-area community, Joe Jaime figured once drafted in 1942 into the Army, he’d finally get the chance to earn his American citizenship and ease the pain of the racial prejudice he endured growing up.

It wasn’t until Dec. 16, 1946, however, after being discharged from the Army and after World War II had ended, that Jaime finally was granted American citizenship.

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