Memorial Day is a day to honor and remember our fallen soldiers and the sacrifice they made alongside their families. There are various veterans, past and present, not many people know about who sacrificed a lot for our freedom. Some left and never came back, others left and came home to loved ones but are no longer with us and their stories matter, too.
After the US entered into World War II with Japan in 1941 following the attack on Pearl Harbor, men of all ages stepped up and enlisted into the military to defend our country. Those eager yet too young had no choice but to wait and hope they had a chance to join the fight.
One of those was a young man from Charlotte, Juan Calvillo. The oldest of eight children to Maximino and Estanilada Calvillo, he worked on his family’s ranch just outside of Charlotte until he could enlist. In November 1943, a mere five months after he turned 18, he joined the US Army.
A Private First Class soldier in his unit, Calvillo was shipped out to the Philippine Islands alongside more than 100,000 American soldiers in boats, submarines and air craft in preparation for General Douglas MacArthur’s major invasion on the Japanese in October 1944. It was the bloodiest set of battles American troops took on in World War II and that Calvillo, had and ever would, see in his lifetime.
After about two months of fighting, American troops conquered the Japanese on Leyte Island and continued on their way to liberating the Philippine Islands, Calvillo surviving it all while about 3,500 others lost their lives during battle.
Afterwards, alongside American troops, Calvillo was sent to Europe to aid in the war against Germany. He recalled the war in Germany as a sight not for sore eyes saying there were bodies of soldiers, men, women and children scattered everywhere from the Holocaust and war.
With the war ending in September 1945, Calvillo was sent back to the states and then Honorably Discharged in January 1946.
Upon returning home, he continued work on his family’s ranch until he met his wife Isabel Bermea in 1953. The two married in February 1956 and to this date have two daughters, two sons, eleven grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren together.
Calvillo lived a long and happy life after the war with his family in Charlotte until his death in August 2010 at the age of 85.
He acquired his medals in 2010 receiving the following: Army Good Conduct, American Campaign, Asia/Pacific Campaign, World War II Victory, Philippine Independence, Philippine Liberation, Rifle Marksman and numerous other awards.
“He was always telling his children and grandchildren stories from the war and speaking to them in Vietnamese even though they didn’t know what he was saying,” said Calvillo’s wife Isabel, “He was a good man and always cared about his family.”
Calvillo worked at his ranch throughout his lifetime raising cattle and growing all types of crops every now and then. He left the ranch to his youngest son, Lloyd who plans on handing it down to his father’s five grandsons when he passes.
“This ranch is really the only thing we have left of him,” said Lloyd, “It’s how we remember and honor him. The ranch has and always will stay in the family.”
Calvillo’s family also had a unique nickname for him: “We call him ‘The Old Soldier’ in our family,” said his youngest grandson Abel Calvillo, Jr., “It became our nickname for him during his last year with us because until the very end, he kept fighting for his life and for his family, just like he kept fighting for our country in the war.”
Calvillo also went into construction to support his family. His two sons followed in his footsteps to work in construction for a few years. There is much more to tell about his life and time in war that his family will hold with them forever. In their eyes, he will always be the Old Soldier they honor, cherish and remember on days like Memorial Day, and every day of their lives.