Growing up during World War 2

War’s End and Welcoming the Troops Home

Joining the Marines Corps and Reflections


Jay R. Vargas was born in July 1938 in Winslow, Arizona. His parents were immigrants who met on the boat on their way to New York and became very good friends. They parted when they landed in the United States but met again years later. His mother opened a country store and his father worked in the newspaper business. Vargas grew up with three other brothers who were all in the military. Even though he was young, Vargas recalls his parents talking about World War 2 and his brothers wanting to join the military. His two brothers, Angelo and Frank, joined the fight and Vargas did not see them for four years until the end of World War 2. He had a map on his wall which he and his parents used to keep up with where his brothers were fighting. Vargas' mother would take them to Mass everyday even during the winter. He would get a lot of his news from going to the theater. He also recalled hating when the olive green car with the star would drive down his street because that meant a serviceman had died and they were going to notify the family. Vargas could remember going through drills incase of bombardment. He would also buy fruit from the stand and he gave fruit to troops passing through town on trains. Some of the troops would give him trinkets, medals and clothing as a thank you sometimes. Vargas remembered the sad times was when he would attend a neighbor's funeral that had died in the service. The community was very tight and took care of each other during war time.


Jay R. Vargas remember discussing with neighbors what was going in Europe and the Pacific. Everyone in his town found ways to participate in the war effort. Vargas recalls when they gathered up his Japanese-American neighbors and sent them away. He did not understand, at the time, why his friend had to leave and live somewhere else. He remembered his mom would make bread and soup and they would visit the camp where his neighbors were and handed it through the barbed wire. Vargas can also recall receiving a little animosity from a few people because his mother was an immigrant from Italy. When the war ended, he could remember sirens and train whistles going off. It was sad at the same time too because many of his friends did not return home. As a kid, he remembers that he would play "war" with many of his friends. Vargas' father wanted to join the military, but he failed his physical and was devastated, so he continued to work for the town's newspaper. Vargas remembered his mother picked him and his brother up from school one day and headed to San Diego [Annotator's Note: San Diego, California] to see the troop ship come in. They stayed for a month waiting for the return of his two older brothers. He could remember all the destroyers and submarines coming into the bay, and the returning troops would be welcomed by crowds of people and parades.


Jay R. Vargas had a gift of playing baseball and he ended up joining the L.A. [Annotator's Note: Los Angleles, California] Dodgers baseball club and played for about a year until his eyes started to go bad. His mother did not want him to go into the Marine Corps, so Vargas did not push it anymore. One Sunday, the family was together, and his brothers convinced him to go in the Marine Corps like they did. His mother told him to "Make me proud, but don't get killed." After Vargas served in Vietnam, he did not open up about his experience until 30 years after his service. He thinks that servicemen should have counseling and open because it is good for them to get their experience out and not bottling everything up. He reflects on the treatment of his Japanese-American neighbors who were sent to an internment camp. Vargas believes its very important to have institutions like The National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: in New Orleans, Louisiana] because its important to not let go of our history. He thinks that wars are not taught in our educational system and should be.

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