Maggie Rivas-Rodriquez is the director of the Voces Oral History Project, at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s a program that collects and shares the stories of American Latino and Latina veterans who lived to tell their tales.
“But what about those who died in service? It’s a topic appropriate this Memorial Day,” Rivas-Rodriquez says. “And it’s a question Fred Flores asked me at a Voces interviewer training session in Houston.”
Fred Flores – whose uncle, Johnnie Flores, died in combat during World War II – hoped that Johnnie’s memory could be archived with the others.
“Fred sent our project a thick packet of carefully photocopied letters from his uncle,” Rivas-Rodriquez says. “He also attached a narrative of his own recollections of New Year’s Eve 1944, when his uncle Johnnie’s death was confirmed.”
“My generation is the last to have seen or known Johnnie, though only through short, fleeting, youthful memories,” he wrote in a letter. “For this reason I have gathered all that I could of Johnnie’s life to provide it for the next generations of this family.”
Like Fred Flores, Rivas-Rodriquez also had an uncle who died during combat in Vietnam.
“Today, I remember him through photographs and the letters he wrote to my sisters and me from across the ocean,” she says. “Through the Voces Oral History Project, we are able to do that year round, providing a way for family members to remember their loved ones and bring them back to life through stories and photographs, if only for a day or an hour.”
Written by Haley Butler.