Richmond, Va –
Commentary By Latosha Owens-Turner, DLA Aviation San Diego
(Editor’s note: Latosha Owens-Turner, a resolution specialist in the Customer Operations Directorate of DLA Aviation San Diego, shares her experiences and those of her grandfather as a Native American and a solider during World War II.)
I have Yaqui blood running through my veins from my maternal grandfather Maximino Vincent Razo. He was born in San Diego in 1918 to a Mexican father and Yaqui Native American mother. He grew up poor and attended Emerson Elementary school, often times with no shoes on his feet, at a time when people of color were not supposed to be educated. Growing up, my grandfather helped out on the farm and continued his education through 10th grade. With his talent for fixing things with his hands, becoming an auto mechanic seemed like a natural fit.
He joined the U.S. Army in 1941 and was stationed at Schofield Barracks, 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii. While serving in Hawaii, the attack on Pearl Harbor took place, December 7, 1941. Following Pearl Harbor, my grandfather began to have flashbacks from that time and would rarely talk about his military experience.
Although he didn’t discuss his military career often, he did open up about the day of the Pearl Harbor attack to Owens-Turner’s mother and aunt in 2003, who relayed the stories to her.
He told them, on that particular day, he was in his shop on Scofield Barracks and after hearing the bombs and gun fire, he and several others in his command rushed to the naval base to provide assistance. It was here, where he was thrown into a helicopter and told to shoot. Prior to this, he had never been on a helicopter and said that he kept vomiting because he was not used to all of the movement.
In 1945 my grandpa was honorably discharged from the military. While serving he was awarded many medals to include: the Philippine Liberation Ribbon with a Bronze Star, a Good Conduct Medal, Asiatic- Pacific Campaign Medal with three Bronze Stars, World War II Victory Medal and the American Defense Service Medal.
In 2005, his ashes were spread at sea during a ceremony over the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor. (The USS Arizona was sunk and burned during the attack on Pearl Harbor.) During this ceremony we learned a lot more about his experiences that day from the men who served with him. Just thinking about some of the choices he had to make at such a young age and the responsibilities to his fellow soldiers whose lives were in his hands makes me cringe. It wasn’t until after his death that his family began to truly understand how that experience shaped his life.
He was a first generation U.S. citizen with immigrant parents, proud of his past but wanting a better future. Having immigrant parents came with immense hardships, including racism that existed then and throughout his as well as his children’s lives.
There always seemed to be a struggle with being an American citizen first within our family. My aunts and uncles were told to speak English and not Spanish. It seemed for most of the family, the roots of Mexican and Native American traditions were put aside to fit into the American culture. As children, we would attend Pow Wows, but always felt like outsiders looking in. To this day, the Yaqui warrior blood and spirit runs through our veins and is evident in our facial features, color of our skin, and warrior spirit in our hearts. We continue to struggle with finding our place in this amazing country. A country that honored and revered a Mexican railroad worker who served in World War II. A country where he met and married a Native American woman and went on to live a peaceful and happy life.