Maria Sally Salazar

By Therese Glenn

When Maria Sally Salazar illegally enlisted into the Army, she dreamed of traveling the world. She didn’t imagine, however, that her service would lead to six months in the hospital recovering from multiple illnesses and watching the end of World War II from bed.

"The war in '41 woke us up," Salazar said. "Everyone was talking about it. Everyone wanted to go."

Juan Meza

By Ignacio Laguarda

It was New Year's Eve in 1944 when Soldier First Class Juan Meza discovered Germans had occupied an abandoned college in France -- the same building where he and five other soldiers were resting.

"We were directing the artillery to shoot where we knew they were giving us more battles," Meza said.

He and the other soldiers were there for a week, five or 10 kilometers in front of battle, serving as observers.

Antonia Meza

By Rachel Gor

In Antonia Meza's day, girls had chaperones accompany them on dates and stayed home with their mothers to make tortillas. Today, Meza's own granddaughters spend entire weekends with their boyfriends, and even she buys tortillas from the grocery store.

These are only a couple of ways in which traditions have changed from the WWII generation to the present.

Elsie Schaffer Martinez

By Kimberly Wied

Elsie Martinez saw a lot of World War II, but she never left the country and can't talk about it.

"The things we saw, and the people that came back, it was horrible," said Martinez, recalling her work in a high-security photo lab that processed aerial photos taken by Army reconnaissance.

Luis Martinez

By Sarah Adams

Luis Martinez has had a hand in history.

He participated in one of the more famous New Deal projects, witnessed D-Day from the English shores and attended Gen. George S. Patton's funeral. But what he remembers most as a World War II veteran is meeting a young woman in the British Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service and falling in love.

Francisco Guerra

By In-Young Kim

Francisco Guerra still doesn't understand why people had to kill each other during World War II. And he says he doesn’t believe in wars anymore.

Guerra remembers the harrowing days he spent on Omaha Beach during the 1944 Normandy campaign. He recalls the high casualties as United States forces took Normandy. He witnessed intense combat, as German gunfire from enemy positions on high ground ripped American units apart.

One memory vividly sticks with him to this day -- the day a fellow soldier was struck by German machine-gun fire.

Hilario Cavazos

By Nicolas Martinez

When the government called Hilario Cavazos Jr. to war in October of 1943, he was in his senior year at Laredo's Martin High School, working his way toward college. He asked for an extension to finish high school, but to no avail -- the need for capable men was too great during World War II.

Placida Peña Barrera

By: Emily Burgess

Placida P. Barrera vividly remembers her childhood days in the dry heat of Guerra, Texas, also known as "El Colorado" Ranch, where she’d help her father plant corn, pumpkins and watermelon.

Just as clearly, she recalls traveling thousands of miles and hundreds of hours across land and water with her husband, Air Force Sgt. Raymundo M. Barrera, and their six children.

Two of the children were born in Japan, and Barrera also lived in Korea, where her husband was an adviser to the Korean troops.

Salomon Trevino Abrego

By Justin Lefkowski

Salomon Abrego was at the Battle of the Bulge, where he and his fellow soldiers suffered through one of the coldest winters to hit the area in more than 20 years.

As a medic, Abrego watched helplessly as the cold ruined some supplies.

"It was so cold that the plasma was freezing," he said. "Soldiers were going into shock because we couldn't use it."

Abrego, who earned the rank of Private First Class, was personally touched by the deaths he saw.

Subscribe to Laredo