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Memorial Day-Reflection on past veterans
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Memorial Day
Reflection on past veterans

There was a time that the Santa Clara Valley was know throughout the world as the “Fruit Basket of the World” there were cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, strawberries, and many other fruits and yes, there was garlic. The farms at that time were huge and employed thousands of Mexican Workers that traveled t o Santa Clara County from Mexico to pick the fruit and eventually settled there. Jobs for Mexicans other then field work was very limited and generally they, the Mexicans, where looked over when applying for better jobs.

Among these families was the Marquez Brothers all 9 of them who were called to serve their country during World War Two and Korea. As many other Mexican American Families the sons responded enthusiastically to the call to arms by the United States.

The nine Marquez Brothers severed honorably in various branches of the military; the amazing thing is that all the brothers returned from the wars.  But returned they did, with greater confidence and determination to leave the fields and obtain better employment; their time in the army, navy, air force, marines or any of the other braches taught them work traits that they could and did utilize on their return home.

Like the hundreds of cherry, plum, garlic and many other varieties of fruit and vegetables the Marquez Brothers are gone, except for one. They accomplished things that otherwise they probably wouldn’t have been able to accomplish. Their stays in the military showed them that they were as good as the next person and that they could accomplish whatever goals they wanted.

Joe Lopez, a long time member of NLPOA is a nephew of these great men and like them Joe has endured. I remember Joe as a young officer who was determined to speak to wrongs, when he saw them, and to address them in a most effective way. Because of Joe’s filing suit against the underhanded way the police department hired Latinos then made sure most were fired, the recruitment, hiring and training for San Jose Police Department’s Policies and Procedures took a totally different, correct and positive direction. Joe had and has the courage to stand up when things are wrong; Just like his uncles did many years ago.

During the upcoming Memorial Day take a moment to reflect on what veterans, and especially family members that have fought the good fight, contributed to how you have developed and how they showed us to excel in whatever we do, then find a veteran and thank him/her for their service and sacrifices.

NLPOA Founder-Vicente Calderon

Our Father Wenceslao Calderon

Private First class (PFC) Wenceslao Calderon, Sr. was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1944 and served in combat with the Texas “36th” Infantry Division in France and Germany during World War II.

Our father arrived in Normandy, France on a military transport ship that carried replacements for the many American Soldiers that had been wounded and killed during the Normandy Invasion that resulted in mass casualties for German, American, British and other Allied Soldiers. He also participated in several major battles, one of which was the Colmar Pocket toward the end of the war that greatly assisted in the final destruction to the Nazis Government.

At the time he was drafted he and Mom Rutila Santillanes Calderon had three children, Wenceslao (Wenzy) Jr., Lily Calderon Gutierrez and Arthuro (Art) Calderon. As the troop ship carried him to war, he had left Mom pregnant with their fourth child, Vicente Calderon. During the war years many men, even those with families and older in age were drafted, Dad was 32 when he was called up and served with 17 and 18 year old soldiers who he said, called me Gramps!

Dad returned from overseas and was honorably discharged from the army. He took off where he left off, caring for his family and doing the right thing. Our father was a “Jack of All trades” he drove a semi truck in El Paso, Texas delivering for Safeway, worked in the fields, was a welder, blew up stumps in the mountains, did excellent mechanical work, was a cement mason and he and his brother, Uncle Cruz, built our house in Visalia.

Our Father was an orphan at an early age and took up the responsibility for watching over his 4 siblings and providing for them. Dad never went to school but there was very little he couldn’t comment on. Early on he told us, his children, you can do anything you set your mind to.

Art and I always agree that our older brother Wenzy got all of Dad’s brains and confidence, he retired from Mercy Hospital where he worked as an emergency surgery nurse and later as administrator of the hospital’s emergency services.

Mr. Wenceslao Calderon was drafted into the army in 1944 even though he had a family of 4, was the only breadwinner for the family and was 32 years of age. But he went and did his duty honorably, as millions of others did. Dad has always been a positive example of what it is to be an honorable person. I feel he succeeded in transpiring those positive traits to my brothers and sisters. It was just, “doing the right thing”. 

Tom Brokaw wrote the book, The Greatest Generation, but forgot to mentioned the contributions which Latinos and other minorities made to bringing that horrible war to an end; another case of  “ in view but invisible.”

My wife Frances and I have started a scholarship, it is our hope that the World War II contributions and ultimate sacrifices by Latino Soldiers and their families are not forgotten.

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