Getting to Know California’s Veterans
Bea Hirschkovici
Bea Hirschkovici
Aaron Araiza
Aaron Araiza

SACRAMENTO, CA – Every November, the United States honors its service members on Veterans Day. This national holiday serves as an opportunity for us to remember our nation’s veterans and to be thankful for our freedoms. This year’s Veterans Day falls on 11/11/11. Most importantly, this year marks the beginning of our nation’s 11th year of engagement in Afghanistan. As a result of our engagement in recent conflicts overseas, many veterans return home, as our newest heroes, just as others did before after other conflicts. This is why the California Department of Veterans Affairs will be profiling eleven veterans beginning November 7th thru Veterans Day. These profiles will include veterans from different generations and backgrounds and hopefully shine a light on the challenges our veterans have and continue to face.

Bea Hirschkovici

Bea Hirschkovici was born in 1910 in Bucharest, Romania. She remembers well her family’s migration from Romania to the United States in 1920. Hirschkovici’s family made the journey to Fort Worth, Texas by sailing from France and registering in Ellis Island.

Hirschkovici remembers the difficult times that World War I had created in Europe and was thankful for the opportunities and safety that the United States offered. In 1929 she and her family moved to California where she lived until she enlisted in the Army at the beginning of World War II.

Hirschkovici was sent to Des Moines, Iowa to serve in the Women’s Auxiliary Core which later became the Women’s Army Core before being sent overseas to Scotland where she served as a Private First Class in the communications department working with top secret mimeographed documents.

In 1945, Hirschkovici returned to Los Angeles where she met her future husband a former POW, Ray Cohen. After her service in the military Hirschkovici got heavily involved in veteran causes which she still participates in till this day. This year she celebrated her 101st birthday.

CDVA: What was the most memorable thing about your service?

Hirschkovici: The training at Buckley Field in Denver, Colorado. I remember learning discipline, learning respect, being an American and realizing what America meant to me. Also, meeting the other women soldiers all over the United States. I also remember being on a train on June 6, 1944 and the sky became filled with planes and gliders. It was the Normandy invasion, only we did not know it at the time. It was the beginning of the end of World War II.

CDVA: What made you want to join the military?

Hirschkovici: I wanted to pay America back for having become an American. I came to this country in 1920 as a Rumanian immigrant. I was proud to be an American and I still am.

CDVA: What if any effect did being in the military have on your family life?

Hirschkovici: Being in the military gave me an extended family. I am proud of having been a member of the military. There is camaraderie among other veterans and we have so much in common. When I am sitting outside the VA hospital for a cab to take me home, and Veterans are sitting right beside me, we always talk about our service and experiences. I feel so home among other Veterans. The VA is my second home.

Aaron Araiza

Aaron Araiza was born and raised in the Sacramento Valley where at the age of 17 he and his twin brother entered into the United States Marine Corps. Araiza attributes his desire to join the Marines to his positive experiences in Boy Scouts and other community service programs.

During his four years in the military, Araiza served as both a Military Police Officer and a Supervising Motor Vehicle Officer in Iraq. He is a Purple Heart Recipient due to injuries he sustained while on a transport mission in Iraq. A truck he was driving was hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Araiza was badly wounded suffering multiple broken bones and internal trauma. As a result of that attack he suffered a Traumatic Brain

Injury (TBI) and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

After returning home from Iraq and receiving an honorable discharge, Araiza has began to utilize the education benefits while working as both a security guard and a work study intern at the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

CDVA: What made you want to join the Marines at the age of 17?

Araiza: I was a Boy Scout most of my life and I think I enjoyed it so much because it was about service and discipline things that I knew I would find in the military. Also I knew that I wanted to go to college and felt that joining the military and pursuing my education after my service was something I really wanted to do. The education benefits are wonderful and I am thankful that the United States thanks its servicemen by providing them with education benefits.

CDVA: What was the most difficult part of your service?

Araiza: I would say the hardest part is being away from your family. I have a twin brother, and once we both were given different assignments it was the first time in my life I had been away from him. It is extremely difficult at first when you go to some base to train but even more difficult when you are halfway across the world from your brother who is also your best friend.

CDVA: What advice would you give to other members of the military about to leave service?

Araiza: I would say to form a plan well before they are out of their service. The economy is hard out there and colleges are impacted. I learned when I got out that jobs weren’t easy to find and that I needed a timeline for my education. Our benefits are good but things just won’t fall into your lap. I have a son and I feel confident that the plan I have in place will help to provide for my family as long as I stay diligent and work hard at it.