'The Greatest Generation': WWII Veterans Gathering

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HARLINGEN – World War II veterans in the Rio Grande Valley try to make it a habit to meet up and enjoy a good meal. Five veterans recently came together for a backyard barbecue.

A sizeable crowd showed up to Raul Treto Sr.’s home in Harlingen; most of them friends and relatives.

“I just wanted to have a get-together, most of the World War II veterans. There’s not too many. Most of these guys are aging veterans,” he said.

Maria Teresa Treto Diaz, daughter of Raul Treto Sr., said they wanted to celebrate life. “My dad wanted to have a dinner or late lunch for his World War II friends,” she said.

Other veterans joined them in posing for pictures, but the WWII veterans are the honored guests. They are now in their late 80’s and 90’s.

“I joined the Navy when I was 15 years old. But I told them I was 17,” Brownsville veteran Juan Perez said. “I went overseas on this ship, the USS Franklin, an aircraft carrier.”

He said he was scared at first. “If you said you weren’t scared, you were lying,” he mentioned.

“I served my country proudly. No regrets,” Alfredo Alvarez said.

“Just out of high school. I graduated in 1941, Harlingen High School,” Treto said.

According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, out of 16 million men and women who served in WWII, a little bit more than half-a-million are still alive.

“And the sad part is, if we don’t engage with them and visit with them and learn from them, then it’s our loss,” George Solis with American Legion Raymondville said.

“We got hit 36 times with high caliber. It tore up the airplane, but fortunately, we didn’t get hit,” recalled veteran Willis Bond.

There were more veterans at their very first meeting but only five members were in attendance this time around. 

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