Army veteran Manuel Moreno, now 96, has reason to be proud. He served 21 years in the Infantry and the Military Police, receiving two Purple Hearts in World War II. Then, he served another 21 years on the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's security detail.
There's another reason to be proud. Manuel and his wife Delilah, 90, reared five children in a two-bedroom house on Sonoma Court in Livermore, where the elder Morenos still live.
That family now numbers 31, including Manuel and Delilah, their five children, 13 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and, most recently, his great-great-granddaughter Lily -- born three weeks ago to his great-granddaughter Bella Ellgas, a former intern for the Weekly.
Manuel was 22 when drafted into the Army during World War II. After basic training, he served with an infantry division that stormed the beaches at Anzio on Italy's central west coast in 1944.
"Germans were all around us when we landed," Manuel recalls. "That's where I got shot in the wrist."
Still he stayed in the fight as his regiment broke though, drove the Germans back and fought its way north, liberating Rome. He was in Rome when loudspeakers in a public square blared the news of the landing of allied forces at Normandy. It was D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Manuel's unit battled the Germans into France. It was there, during a particularly heavy battle, that Manuel jumped into an abandoned foxhole for cover, but not before a bullet cut into his leg just above the knee. Treated by medics, he was awarded a second Purple Heart and transferred out of combat for the duration of the war.
Manuel -- now a sergeant -- was heading back home to be discharged when he received a "Dear John" letter from Sarah, his high school sweetheart he had planned to marry. Sorry, she wrote, but she'd found someone else.
So he re-enlisted, this time into the Military Police. He was sent to the Canal Zone in Panama. While there, a staff clerk offered to introduce Manuel to her girlfriend as a blind date for an upcoming social.
"Sure," Manuel told her. "Bring her over. We'll go to the dance and have dinner." That's when he met Delilah, his future wife. This year, they will celebrate their 66th anniversary.
In 1963, the couple thought it was time to return to civilian life. A friend suggested that Manuel apply at Sandia National Laboratories in Livermore, which was hiring veterans. But the human resources office was closed when he arrived, so he walked across East Avenue to the Livermore Lab, which was recruiting for its security force.
Manuel received a discharge from the MPs and took the Lab job, starting at $2.77 an hour. The couple packed up their belongings in Panama and, using their savings, moved into a house they bought for $18,400 on Sonoma Court in Livermore, where they still live.
For the next 21 years until his retirement in 1984, Manuel headed up the Lab's security division that escorted outside contractors into the Lab for ongoing construction projects. Delilah stayed home as their family grew, with all five of their children graduating from Livermore high schools. One daughter and a granddaughter hold key positions at the Livermore Lab.
Manuel said that while he has never returned to Europe, that's OK. With such a large family nearby, he and Delilah don't need to travel. His oldest daughter lives next door and the other 29 offspring provide all the care and companionship they need.
"Life couldn't be any better," he said.