May 22, 2009

Obituary

Carlos “Charles” Guerra Samarron †

July 16, 1922 - May 9, 2009

Charles Guerra Samarron, born July 16, 1922, passed away peacefully at the age of 86 in his home on May 9, 2009, alongside his loving family after a long battle with vascular disease.

Charlie was born in San Antonio, TX, to mother Elisa Leos and adoptive father Ines Samarron. He was raised in San Angelo, TX, with his sister, Hope, and brothers, Mike and Joe. After his graduation from San Angelo High School, he enlisted in the CCC in 1940, followed by the Marine Corps from 1942-46. He battled in the South Pacific on islands such as Iwo Jima and Saipan, and returned as a highly decorated soldier.

He later resided in San Diego, working at the Federal Civil Service where he spent 30 years as a Deputy Equal Employment Officer for the Navy. He also worked as an Aviation tech, as well as a production controller for many years, until he retired from North Island Naval Base in 1975. After retiring, he was a highly active member in the community and various organizations. His involvements included everything from being a Boy Scout leader and baseball coach to backing the Chicano civil rights movements - where he was appointed Chairman of the American GI Forum.

He was also affiliated with the Chicano Federation, VFW Don Diego Post, MAAC Project, and Operation SER. He proudly served as foreman for San Diego County Grand Jury one year, and acquired employment with the State at E.D.D. where he loved helping people find employment and direction in life.

In 1973, fate would have it to meet the love of his life, Rosa Maria Ochoa, where they would happily be married for 35 years and raise three boys. His passion for life, love, and happiness was expressed with friends and family through Latin music and dancing. He devoted most of his time to his children’s upbringing to ensure a better life than he had.

He was well respected and admired by many communities for his admirable and political contributions. He received numerous awards and notoriety for his achievements and services throughout the years. Charles is survived by his beloved wife Rosa Maria, Carlos Alfredo, Roberto Luis, and Oscar Antonio Samarron. He will be deeply missed and loved as a husband, father, friend, and companion that will continuously inspire those that knew him. As once quoted by the late Carlos George Montalvo (Charles’ brother-in-law), “I’m not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.” You will be forever missed, but never forgotten. May you Rest in Peace, Charlie. We will reunite again someday.”

Burial Service will be held on May 26th with Mass at 11 a.m., Corpus Christi, 450 Corral Canyon Rd., Bonita, 91902. Following Mass, a Military Service will be held in his honor at 1:00 p.m. at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma.

In August 2001, Charlie Samarron was interviewed by Rene Zambrano as a part of the The U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project, University of Texas, at Austin, under the direction of Prof. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez. The following is an excerpt of the story written By Cliff Despres:

Three weeks after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Charles “Carlos” Guerra Samarron, of San Antonio, Texas, joined the fight and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, beginning a four-year stint in the military and opening the door for a lifetime of memories.

As part of the 3rd Marine Division, 3rd Amphibious Tractor Battalion, Samarron would survive perilous beach assaults on the islands of Guam and Iwo Jima, face down the possibility of invading Japan and exit the war in 1946 with a new perspective on life.

“You know you’re mortal and you can die anytime,” he said. “I feel more of a kinship with my fellow man than I did before.”

The war had changed him in other ways, Samarron said in an interview. He would return and work as a civil servant, monitoring the rights of Latino sailors, trying to further the Mexican American people’s stake in the U.S.

Growing up with a stepfather who cleaned the insides of train engines at a nearby railroad station afforded Samarron a wealthier-than-average childhood that wasn’t shared by many Mexican Americans during the time of the Great Depression.

“Hispanics in those years didn’t get choice jobs, believe me,” Samarron said. “The majority of Mexican Americans worked in the field, and they had to go where the work was. We were fortunate that my stepfather worked at the railroad, he made good money because he always had a steady job.”

Not having to supplement his stepfather’s income and help take care of the family with a job of his own, Samarron received an education in San Angelo.

Samarron left San Angelo High School in June of 1940 to join the Civilian Conservation Corps.

“I joined the CC Corps when I was 16 because I wanted a job, and it was a good way for Mexican Americans to earn money,” Samarron said. “You could also get clothing, food and the chance to pick up a trade. You could learn how to build bridges or study forestry.”

The Corps, a program that stemmed from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal outreach, helped find jobs for unemployed Americans, and was instrumental in finding jobs for Mexican Americans.

Samarron left the Corps and returned to high school six months later. In January of 1942, he volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps, leaving San Angelo and heading to San Diego. For the next 23 months, the Marine Corps prepared Samarron for the war in the Pacific, with basic infantry training and techniques to use during amphibious landings.

“They’d put a pack on you and throw you into a pool, and you’d have to get the pack off before you drowned,” Samarron said. “The training was rigid.”

But, if the training was rigorous, an entirely new “nightmare” awaited Samarron on the shores of Guam and Iwo Jima.

In November of 1943, Samarron departed San Diego and arrived in New Caledonia, a French port where troops began preparations for the invasion of Guam, an island in the Pacific that the Japanese had captured from Allied forces.

American forces launched an attack on Guam to resecure the island, and Samarron was part of the beach assault.

Samarron reached the beach via an armored vehicle, where he feverishly began to dig a trench while Japanese mortars exploded all around him.

“It was a nightmare — my first combat,” he said.

“We had the upper hand with the ships and planes, and our naval vessels pounded the crap out of them,” Samarron said. “By the morning, we had driven the Japanese back.”

The Allies retook Guam, and Samarron had emerged from the fighting with his life.

Samarron also survived the Battle of Iwo Jima a year later in February of 1945. He was then sent to Hawaii to train for the anticipated invasion of Japan.

After the U.S. ended WWII in 1945 by dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Na-gasaki, Samarron was discharged in January of 1946 — and his new status afforded him greater opportunities back home.

“As a veteran, you have equal rights like everybody else, so it gave Mexican Americans new opportunities to go back to school or get benefits,” Samarron said. “It gave us a feeling of being equal.”

Returning to San Diego, where his family was located after following him there in 1942, Samarron enrolled in San Diego Junior College, but didn’t graduate.

Instead, he found work at the Federal Civil Service, where he spent the next 30 years as a deputy equal employment officer for the Navy.

In addition to hearing and resolving complaints, he was in charge of examining each unit and exploring the reasons why there were few Latinos enlisted.

“It was just a question of recruiting those who had the wherewithal,” Samarron said.

At the same time, he began his work with the Navy; Samarron also became actively involved in the American G.I. Forum, a veterans organization dedicated to securing rights for Mexican Americans in both the workforce and education.

“Our local chapter tried to find all the returning Mexican Americans still looking for jobs or job training and get those people jobs,” Samarron said. “We established communications with the powers to be — the mayor, city council and people who knew the inside-outs.”

Even though Samarron had retired from both his profession and community service, he harbored strong feelings about Mexican American involvement in society.

“There’s always gonna be a need for Hispanics to have a voice and express their concerns,” he said. “The best thing to do is get educated and try to do something with your life that’s beneficial not only to you and your family, but also to your community.”

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