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War & Locale: World War II -- European Theater
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By Erika Rodriguez
Francisco Venegas sits in the kitchen of his house in southeast Austin. That act alone makes him feel lucky.
Venegas has worked and struggled his whole life to be able to relax in his own home at the age of 82. Francisco was born in Kingsville, Texas in the year 1918, the oldest of three children. When he was 17, Venegas lived with his family and attended school until his father died when Venegas was only 17. After the death of his father the family needed a steady income so Venegas quit school to find a job; he would have to work hard just to survive for the rest of his life.
In 1942, Venegas enlisted in the army. He was shipped out immediately to the Aleutian Islands where he would endure some of the worst weather he had ever known. He was stationed there for two years. He returned to the U.S. in June of 1944, and was sent out again in November of the same year. Venegas landed in England and awaited his assignment. He then traveled to France, Belgium, and finally he was sent into the battlefields in Germany. Venegas and the rest of the men in the 273rd Infantry were in combat for eight months. Venegas believed he would never return home but he fought to stay alive regardless. He was tired, hungry, cold, and most of all scared.
"I never thought that I was going to get away from there so I could come home, I lost all faith...I was scared all the time," Venegas said. Almost a year later the war was ending and Venegas received orders to be shipped home. Venegas returned to Texas and was discharged. As soon as he returned home he began to look for work Brownsville.
Venegas found jobs doing carpentry work and would continue this kind of work for around 30 years.
"I got to be 65 years old, I wasn't making too much money to get rich but I was making enough money to eat and live. That's all I could do," Venegas said.
When asked if he had any photographs of himself during the war or any memorablilia Venegas mentioned that his house was always getting broken and most of his things were stolen.
"I used to get up very early in the morning to go to work and no one was here in the house you know and sometimes most of the time I'd get back home too late at night and by the time I got here already somebody had broken in the house," he said. "I had a folder with all the places that I was up there. I lost it, somebody got away with it in here, I lost everything."
Venegas married Maria Soto in 1946 and the couple had five children, three sons and two daughters.
Venegas said he feels he is a very lucky man. He is grateful for his life and his strong will.
"The only thing I want to say is that I thank God I'm still here," he said.