Arthur Tafoya

By Elizabeth James

As a medic treating the wounded and dying in World War II, Arthur Tafoya says dealing with the blood and gore of battle was in some ways the easy part. The difficult part was dodging the bullets and artillery fire.

"Artillery and bullets didn't discriminate," Tafoya recalled. "It didn't matter that we had red crosses [on our uniforms]. We were always under fire."

Mike & Mrs. Betty Silva

By Wanda Lopez

At 80, Mike Silva reflects on his World War II service and how he was foolish to volunteer for a conflict that still moves him to tears decades later.

Silva was wounded during the war and saw many fellow soldiers die. He also cannot shake the memory of hungry children in the streets of Europe.

"I wanted to go because I was a dummy," he said, laughing at his own naïveté.

"When they asked who wanted to receive special training, I raised my hand. That's where they taught me how to save or kill other people."

Betty Chavez Silva

By Jenny Murphy

Engulfed by a huge armchair, 78 year-old Betty Chavez Silva reflects on her memories growing up in New Mexico, remembering two older brothers who went off to serve in World War II.

Silva smiles when she talks about her two brothers. She remembers her parents were upset the boys had to drop out of college to fight in the war.

She remembers the letters written by her brothers to her parents, which often mentioned girlfriends to whom they’d one day return.

Herman Saiz

By Heather Cuthbertson

In 1944, Herman Saiz wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life. He’d always tried to help his family, but without a father and clear path to follow, he enlisted to fight in the South Pacific during World War II.

Like many young men at the time, Saiz viewed the war effort as a duty and responsibility. It was something he had to do. The uncertainty with which he’d lived was gone. The only thing that mattered was to help win the war -- and survive.

Alfonso Rodriguez

By Alyssa Green

After dropping out of high school in 1940, Alfonso Rodriguez found himself doing what he considered menial jobs -- sweeping floors, working in a grocery store, hauling garbage and selling newspapers.

Rodriguez figured there had to be a better way to make a living, so he decided to join the Army, enlisting Dec. 31, 1940. It was peacetime then, and Rodriguez joined with the expectation he’d get to see the world.

A year later, however, Rodriguez was pulled directly into World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.

Maclovio Montoya

By Gilbert Song

Born March 15, 1926, Maclovio Montoya experienced the Great Depression and military duty in World War II. Then it was off to the Pacific for the Korean War. However, it was in his golden years when he fought his greatest struggle -- trying for decades to receive the Purple Heart for being wounded in WWII.

Montoya has a quiet and husky voice; his demeanor is gentle. He wears a purple veteran's hat covered with military pins, ribbons and badges, accompanied by a matching purple silk bomber jacket.

Juanita Tapia Montoya

By Alicia Rascón

While scores of Latinos served their country valiantly during World War II, many women did their part on the home front.

Juanita Tapia Montoya vividly remembers wartime rationing back home during these years, when the U.S. government limited the purchasing of items such as sugar, meat and other materials needed for the military. Families had ration-stamp books to use to purchase goods.

Teodoro Garcia


Teodoro Garcia grew up poor in Presidio, Texas, a small border town, during the Great Depression. To relieve the family's burden, he left home in Clovis, N.M., to live with his grandmother in Presidio. Garcia only reached the fifth grade before having to leave school to earn a living, though his brothers and sisters back home were allowed to finish.

"Life was tough and I had to help," Garcia said.

At that time Garcia remembers Presidio as being "pura raza," everyone was Mexican and everyone was Catholic. And everyone was poor.

Jose Cuellar

By Peggy Hanley

Jose "Joe" Cuellar volunteered to be a scout in the South Pacific during World War II because scouts were considered leaders by his fellow soldiers. At the tender age of 18, Cuellar was convinced he wanted to be a leader, and being a scout fulfilled that yearning.

His desire to lead started developing at an early age, when he was forced to fend for himself and his family as a youth in Albuquerque, N.M. Cuellar says his strong work ethic helped him survive the experiences of war in the South Pacific.

Delfina Josepha Lujan Cuellar

By Amanda Crawford

Delfina Lujan Cuellar grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., at a time when girls were expected to become mothers and wives. Like many Mexican American girls of her generation, she wasn’t allowed to attend school after the eighth grade.

"We were very deprived of getting more education," Cuellar said. "They thought that we would be too free and have babies before marriage and things like that, and so I didn't go to high school."

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