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Introduction | Bernardo de Gálvez | Civil War | Cuba & China | World War I | World War II | Korea | Vietnam | Iraq | Obregon Monument
Title | Introduction | Poster | Making the Presentation


The making of
By Eddie Martinez

Title page, "Hispanics in the Military."

I began my work, Hispanics in the Military, as part of Somos Primos and the 2005 Hispanic Heritage Activities at the National Archives. I presented "Hispanics in the Military" at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. in the William G. McGowan Theater on October 12, 2005. Over the next two years I continued to do more research and further develop my presentation. To the families of the patriotic Latino servicemen and women who I did not mention, your loved ones are not forgotten. To all the researchers and historians of Latinos/Hispanics in America's defense, I salute you, for without the unwavering dedication to your work much of the information would not have been available to enable me to produce "Hispanics in the Military."

Some have asked me why I choose to spotlight the military. Well, it certainly is not because of the lost lives or who was right or wrong in warfare. War brings horrendous tragedies, but it also brings out the best in human behavior towards its fellow man. My interest in the military sprouted during World War II. At that time my dad was stationed overseas serving in the Army Air Corps. I was busy shining shoes on Olvera Street in Los Angeles. Most of my high-tipping customers were soldiers, sailors and Marines who were passing through the busy Los Angeles Union Train Station on Alameda Street.

In 1954, I decided it was time to join the Air Force and see the world. After two years of service at Ellington AFB, Houston, Texas, I was transferred to Fairbanks, Alaska. I was assigned to the 449th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. In 1957, our squadron was transferred further west to Galena, a small remote air base on the Yukon River. As dispatcher, I was responsible for scrambling F-89 fighter jets whenever I received the alert of incoming unidentified aircraft. I'm proud to say that our unit stood as the first line of defense against Russia during the Cold War. Below is a cartoon I drew of our officers and enlisted men between alerts.


Cartoon, the 449th Fighter Interceptor crew in the flight hanger between alerts.

Years later in 1971, I was once again with the Air Force, but this time my rank was GS-15 or full Colonel. I was under orders to tour Air Force bases in Asia. This came about because the Los Angeles Society of Illustrators had an art program with the United States Air Force. As a member of the Society, I was selected to tour Japan, Okinawa and South Korea to create a painting.   It was in Korea, aboard a helicopter returning to Osan Air Force Base, that I met paramedic Staff Sergeant John Barrio, assigned to Air Force Rescue Operations. Barrio told me how difficult it was to become a paramedic. He said in order to qualify as a paramedic you must train to be a medic, mountain climber, skier, paratrooper, scuba diver, and a machine-gunner. Well, that was enough for me, S/Sgt, John Barrios was my hero and the subject for my painting was set. So, on the following morning I met with John and we climbed aboard the Jolly Green Giant. He harnessed me for safety so I could stand on the edge of the chopper's open door where I spent the entire day photographing their various maneuvers in rescuing. My painting is below. It is now among the other paintings in the United States Air Force Art Collection. The only copy I have of the painting is this black and white picture.

Painting of Air Force Rescue Operations, serving the South Korean community.


In the 1990's I volunteered to design a monument in honor of the 40 Latino recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor (more than any other ethnic group in proportion to the number who served). My good friend Bill Lansford, a Latino and president of the Eugene A. Obregon/Congressional Medal of Honor Memorial Foundation, first described his vision and that's where I started.   The process required lots of conceptual sketches and drawings until the design was finalized. After developing the construction drawings that met the building requirements and the budgets, a special location at the prestigious El Pueblo Historic Monument was selected and approved by the City of Los Angeles. Since then, it has won the enthusiastic support of office-holders from former President Bill Clinton to U.S. Senators and Representatives, California Legislators, Los Angeles County Supervisors, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and the L.A. City Council. The monument depicts Pfc Eugene Obregon of East Los Angeles confronting the enemy in the Korean War and saving the life of Pfc Bert Johnson, an Anglo from Texas, at the cost of his own life. In our restless times, when racial differences are often exploited to pit us against each other, the Foundation decided that this young Marine's story and that of the other brave Latino CMH recipients should be told, not only celebrating the heroism of those who sacrificed so much for this country, but the brotherhood that should unite all Americans. The Memorial Foundation is currently on a fund raising campaign to raise the funds to build the CMH Monument. (See below)

A 3-D model of "The Eugene A. Obregon Congressional Medal of Honor Monument." Planned site is Fr. Serra Park, El Pueblo De Los Angeles Historical Monument, Los Angeles, CA.


In 2005, I was off to Washington D.C. to continue my research on Hispanics in the Military . I first visited the National Archives where I was happy to find a Latino serviceman's profile on display among our military heroes: Major Manuel (Jay) S. [Sando] Vargas Jr. USMC, Company G, 2d Battalion, 4 th Marines, 9 th Marine Amphibious Brigade. Born: 29 July 1940, Winslow, Arizona. Service in the Republic of Vietnam, 30 April to 2 May 1968. His gallant actions uphold the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service.

I continued my research at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, The Price of Freedom, Americans at War exhibition.   It had incredible displays of United States military battles from the American Revolution to the Iraq war.

From there, I went to the National Air and Space Museum, where I purchased Don Lopez's book, "Into the Teeth of the Tiger." A Latino cashier commented to me that he knew Don Lopez and that they were flying friends. I said I would sure like to meet him and have him sign my book. After a much appreciated telephone phone call, I was invited into the executive office of retired Air Force Colonel Donald Lopez. He welcomed me and he shared some of his flying experiences as a fighter pilot with the Flying Tigers in China. I asked him about the P40 plane he flew of which he had a painting on the wall. I made notes of some of the plane's details, such as the number 194 on the vertical stabilizer and "Lope's Hope" lettered across the plane's fuselage. He said Lopes was a nickname given to him by his pilot friends in China. After mentioning my admiration of The Space Mural - A Cosmic View by artist Robert McCall, Lopez took me to the conference room where a number of McCall's paintings were displayed. That was really a treat. I thanked him for the pleasure I had in meeting him and he graciously signed my book.

Eddie Martinez & Donald S. Lopez, deputy director, National Air and Space Museum.

After completing my military research, I structured my findings into a chronological script. As an artist, I was compelled to tell the story visually. I began story boarding my interpretations of the historical moments and images from my research and from my own human experiences in the service. The character portraits and combat action scenes I portrayed were rendered with pencil & brush. I illustrated all the military regalia and the military maps and graphics on the computer.

I am grateful to Mimi Lozano and the Somos Primos' 2005 Hispanic Heritage Activities for the opportunity to contribute my work to our Latino Heritage with Hispanics in the Military.

If you are interested in purchasing a CD copy of Hispanics in the Military, for PC or MAC computers, I may be reached by e-mail: or order a CD on my Website here: CD Presentation