Los Angeles

Alfredo A. Castro

By Erin Neck

Alfred Castro wears a cap that bears his medals on the outside but holds his memories of the war inside.

Now 80 years old, Castro vividly remembers the details of his life before, during and after the war and the men with whom he served in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.

Born in LaVerne, Calif., on Jan. 27, 1922, Castro describes a simpler life than most children know today, living among orange orchards, going to school and playing baseball to stay out of trouble.

Tony Aguilera

By Yasemin Florey

Even though Tony Aguilera's childhood in an East Los Angeles barrio was once marked by poverty, he remembers it fondly.

"We were a very happy family," he said of his Mexico-born parents and 13 siblings. "We played marbles and tops and flew kites. We sent to the fields and caught rabbits."

Aguilera would leave his home and fond memories behind when, on March 4, 1942, he was drafted into the service as a member of a Texas infantry unit in Europe. Eventually, he’d become a prisoner of war in a German camp for 16 months.

Jose Robert Zaragoza

When Jose R. Zaragoza returned from World War II, he found an invigorated Los Angeles ripe with opportunities for younger generations of Latinos.

Zaragoza was born in Los Angeles, Calif. in 1920. His parents had emigrated with his two older brothers from Mexico to escape the violence of the Mexican Revolution. When he was 9, his family moved to the flatlands of Northern California right before the onset of the Great Depression. Although he did attend school in California for a short time, he quit to work in the fields.

Leon Leura


In the beginning of 1944, 22-year-old Tech. Pvt. Leon "Jack" Leura was among the American troops able to cross the raging Rapido River, and help gain control of Italy. That summer, a wounded Leura would be taken prisoner by the Germans, escape and then travel across Russia before he would return home.

Leura was in the 36th Division; Company A, 111th combat engineers. As a Tech 5th grade he discovered and destroyed mines.

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