By: Voces Staff
By Zachary Romo, California State University, Fullerton
Standing in front of a judge, Ramon Rodriguez was given two options when he was 17: Go to jail or join the military. With his father’s approval, he chose to serve.
As a teenager in the late 1950s, Rodriguez had run wild on the streets of Wilmington, California. He was involved with gangs, including one case of grand theft auto. He claimed the reason for his behavior was a desire for adventure.
Philip Cervantes mastered the science of destruction as a specialist in explosives and demolition in a military career during the earliest years of the Cold War.
Born in East Los Angeles, California, in 1929, Cervantes was the fourth of 11 children. His mother, Catalina Rodarte, tended to the household, and his father, Antonio Cervantes, was a carpenter in the construction business, venturing to destinations where work was available.
Cervantes began to work with his father while attending junior high school. He spent his Saturdays watering down concrete for him.
By Michael John Loffredo, St. Bonaventure University
While many Navy sailors stepped foot on land to fight for the United States during the Korean War, Tereso Reza spent his years of service working aboard a ship. While not seeing action bothered him at times, he recalls his experience as "pleasant," and he returned unharmed.
Reza was born in East Los Angeles, California, on Sept. 23, 1931, to Salvador Reza and Maria Berroteran. He was the second-oldest of seven brothers and sisters.
By Jeffrey Kmiecinski, St. Bonaventure University
When Henry Alfaro began his broadcasting career, he was one of very few Mexican-Americans in the industry. Decades later, his community work and trailblazing career led to him being named by Hispanic Magazine as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Latinos in the United States.
Alfaro was born on November 25, 1934 in South Pasadena, California. His father, Enrique Cardenas Alfaro, was a painter with the Southern Pacific Railroad. His mother, Irene Ochoa Alfaro, was a housewife.
By John Mazzullo
A lifelong athlete and a trailblazing educator and coach, Hector Albert Padilla is no stranger to the discipline, hard work and camaraderie that goes into assembling a strong team.
Padilla was born in Tucson, Arizona, on March 22, 1930, to Manuel and Concepcion Juarez Padilla. His father worked as a boilermaker for Southern Pacific Railroad, and his mother was a seamstress.
By Voces Oral History Project
Andrew Melendrez lost his mother at 9 and his father a few years later. By 19, he had been drafted into the Army and would see brutal combat in Europe during World War II. He fought in some of the war's most harrowing battles, including what would come to be known as the Battle of the Bulge, one of the last major German offensives.
"I grew up more," he said of his war experience. "I had more discipline, more respect for people. I was more considerate of others."
By Megan Breckenridge
Growing up in an artistic family that moved between the United States and Mexico, Noe Espindola was immersed in two cultures and languages. In time, however, he was given the opportunity to serve his native country -- the United States -- during World War II.
Espindola was born June 27, 1926, in Austin, Texas, one of four children of professional musician Ranulfo Espindola and Maria de Jesús Arias, both natives of Mexico.
By the Voces staff
Consuelo Hartsell grew up in Rawlins, Wyoming, in the only Latino family in a small town where the neighbors included Scandinavians, Greeks, Japanese and one African-American family. It was not until her last year of high school that a few more Latino families started to move in.
Her parents, Francisco and Carmen Macias, had eloped as teenagers, and moved from Texas and eventually to Wyoming to work in the beet fields. “They were just playing it by ear, I guess,” she said.
By Edwin de la Torre
Experiences change lives forever, and for Graciano Gomez, serving during World War II was the experience he said opened his eyes and mind to a greater picture. After his service he returned with new goals and a greater determination, not only for himself but also for his culture.