Air Forces

Genaro V Lopez

By Simon Wagner, St. Bonaventure University

World War II "actually made a man out of me," Genaro V. Lopez told his son, Genaro, during their father-to-son interview for the Voces Oral History Project.

Born April 8, 1925, in Brownsville, Texas, to Manuel and Angela Velazco Lopez, Lopez was the middle child among four brothers and two sisters. His father drove a truck for a greengrocer and was known as "El Gallo" for his sideline as a cockfighter.

Lopez's father expected him to clean the roosters' cages.

Arturo Ramirez

By Grant Abston

As a sophomore at La Salle High School in San Antonio, Texas, Arturo Ramirez stood out from his classmates.

Ramirez already had a working history that spanned many years. He had worked alongside his father cleaning offices at the Union Stockyards in San Marcos, northeast of San Antonio, since he was eight years old. The work day sometimes began at 4 a.m. before school. He had also worked landscaping for two years before taking a job at a bowling alley on the south side of town during his sophomore year.

Herlinda Gutierrez

By Teresita Amaya, California State University, Fullerton

What began as a harmless bet led to the opportunity of a lifetime for U.S. Air Force veteran Herlinda Gutierrez - "I enlisted on a dare," she said.

Gutierrez remembered one day she and the girls at work were imagining what their lives could be if they were in the military, although it was something of a longshot. Not only were they all nurses but, aside from Gutierrez, most of them were also married and had children.

Antonio Rojo

By Bryce Pohlmeyer

A trip to Alaska can be conjured from the comfort of a faded brown recliner and the churning of boat propellers almost can be heard from an Alpine, Texas, living room.

Those memories are cherished by Antonio Rojo who as a young child faced discrimination only to be drafted into the Army Air Forces during World War II.

Seferino Nino Gonzales

By Diana Pena

Sitting in front of a disassembled cuckoo clock, Seferino Nino Gonzales’ demeanor gave little hint that he was a veteran of at least two wars, which he described as a “very pleasant experience.”

At the time of his interview, Gonzales worked on clocks in his own shop in Austin, Texas. But for 27 years he traveled the world, thanks to his service in the U.S. Air Force.

Gabriel Garcia

By Ruben Espinoza

When Gabriel Garcia left his family’s home in Mercedes for Army basic training in the summer of 1952, it was the first time he had ever been away from South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

California’s Camp Roberts was very different from his father's farm fields, where he could soak in the dense, warm Texas evenings. But he was excited to see other parts of the world.

Neftali L. Zendejas

By Layne Victoria Lynch

As 80-year-old Neftali L. Zendejas looked back on the memories of his childhood before his service in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, he reminisced about how he knew he wanted to work with aircrafts at an early age.

Way back when his father was working the farm of a Japanese family that had been sent to an internment camp during World War II, Zendejas said he ventured into a nearby airfield, to admire a Lockheed P-38 Lightning aircraft.

Robert L. Cardenas

By Rachel Platis

In 1939, National Guard Pvt. Robert Cardenas was in the final stage of obtaining a full scholarship to the California Institute of Technology, having just completed two years of pre-engineering study at San Diego State College. In one hand, he held a letter regarding the scholarship; in the other, a letter from his commanding officer:

“Welcome, Private Cardenas, we are going to the Philippines,” Cardenas recalled the communiqué reading.

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