Killed in Action

Manuel Perez, Jr.

Twenty-two-year-old Manuel Pérez, Jr. was killed in action on March 14, 1945, on the road to Santo Tomas in Southern Luzon in the Philippine Islands.

Private First Class Pérez served as a paratrooper in the 11th Air Borne Infantry Division and was the lead scout for Company A of the 511th Parachute Infantry. A month before he was killed by a sniper bullet, he’d qualified for the Medal of Honor, the United States’ highest military honor. On Feb. 28, 1945, he wrote the following to his uncle, Private Jesse Pérez, who was also in the South Pacific:

Benigno Gaytan

By Melissa Mendoza

“Most of my friends, they say, ‘Let’s join the Navy,’” said Benigno “Tony” Gaytan, when asked why he signed up for the Armed Forces during World War II.

“I said, ‘OK.’”

At 17, Gaytan was working as a stock boy at a five-and-dime store in Laredo, Texas. The United States had been involved in the war for more than a year. He recalled the irony of unpacking a shipment of clay toys marked “Made in Japan,” the country in which he’d soon find himself battling in the Pacific for his life and country.

Eladio Martinez

When Eladio Martinez was growing up in Dallas, Texas, education was a priority. His father was a laborer and inspired his children to learn. Like his three younger siblings, Martinez graduated from Dallas Technical High School. Growing up, the Martinez children enjoyed outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting.

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