Joe M. Ruiz

By Darcy Keller

As a prisoner of war, Private Joe M. Ruiz narrowly escaped death at the end of World War II.

After a failed mission and a surprise encounter with the Japanese, Ruiz, who served with the 389th Coast Artillery Battalion of the 6th Army, was captured and taken to Kobe, Japan. As a prisoner, he endured beatings and starvation until the Red Cross rescued him after the war ended with the bombing of Nagasaki.

"It saved my life when they dropped those bombs in Nagasaki," Ruiz said. "When [the] Red Cross got me out, I was more dead than alive. I was 104 pounds."

Pete Moraga

By Yvonne Lim

Growing up in the segregated town of Tempe, Ariz., during the late 1930s, Peter "Pete" Moraga recalls feeling nervous about public speaking.

Despite those early fears, Moraga, a World War II Navy veteran who served in the Pacific, fashioned a life as a journalist that consistently affirmed "La Voz Mexicana," or "the Mexican voice.” He worked with government radio program Voice of America, CBS Radio and, finally, at a Spanish-language television station.

Gloria Flores Moraga

By Raquel C. Garza

Gloria Flores Moraga defied many social norms in her lifetime: She moved out on her own while single, attended college when most women were expected to stay home and even worked as a disc jockey at the first all-Spanish radio station in Phoenix, Arizona.

A "Depression baby," Moraga was born Dec. 5, 1930, in Phoenix, Ariz., only 14 months after the stock market crash of 1929. Her father, Manuel Flores, baled hay for 25 cents a day to support his wife, Anita Daniel Flores, and their new daughter.

Mike C Gomez

By Christine Powers

"I had a bitter taste in my mouth when I learned both my sons were drafted for Vietnam," said World War II veteran Mike Gomez.

He leaned forward in his seat, paused for a second and then emphasized: "A bitter taste."

Frustrated at the possibility of losing his children and recalling his memories of the European Theater, Gomez, 78, says the draft seemed to be an unavoidable family tradition.

Raymond J. Flores

By Shelby Tracy

Raymond J. Flores has always been a fighter.

He volunteered for the Army in the midst of World War II, but a defective leg kept him from fighting overseas.

His lifelong battle for freedom would be done on the home front.

Born in the small mining town of Miami in southwest Arizona, Flores was one of 17 brothers and sisters. His mother, Rosa Holguin Johnson, was from Tularosa, N.M., and his father, Aurelio Maldonado Flores, immigrated in 1905 from Guanajuato, Mexico.

Pete Dimas

By Shelley Hiam

Memories of childhood and his mother's mouth-watering cooking remain fresh on Pete Dimas' mind. Sopapillas, chili with carne sauce and delicious beans are some of the foods he remembers.

"Mother was an excellent cook. You name it, she had it. She could do breakfast too," Dimas said.

Although he grew up in the Depression, Dimas says his family didn't have a hard time as far as eating was concerned.

Beatrice Esudero Dimas

By Jonathan Alexander

A church gathering, a pink dress and a comment to a friend 60 years ago set in motion the story of Beatrice Dimas. The party provided the scene, her dress caught young Alfred Dimas' eye, and his words said it all: she would be his.

Alfred Dimas

By Christopher Trout

Alfred Dimas has spent his life in pursuit of adventure. This pursuit took him across the United States to find work wherever he could during the Depression, and in 1942 it took him into the U.S. Army as a volunteer.

But no matter where Dimas went or what he did, he says he always worked to keep his family alive.

Ralph Amado Chavarria

By Erin Dean

Everything is "beautiful" to Ralph Chavarria, an 88-year-old World War II veteran of the Pacific Theater, who is, to this day, a well-known musician in the Phoenix, Ariz., area.

Chavarria survived a tough childhood full of discrimination and segregation and was drafted at the age of 27, by which point he was already a husband and a father. But he describes nearly everything in his life as beautiful.

"It was very interesting and beautiful, but it's war and it's dangerous, ok," he said about his missions as a firefighter in the Air Force.

William Henry Todd

By Katie Gibson

For William Henry Todd, enlisting in the National Guard and serving during World War II transformed him from a child to a man.

"The Army was a school for me. It taught me many things," Todd said. "When I joined the National Guard, I didn't have anything ... to call my own.

"For the first time in my life, I was standing on my own two feet.”

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