Just as World War II was drawing to a close in Europe, Victor Fuentealba got captured.

Positioned in a field on the edge of a German town near the Rhine River, Fuentealba was spotted by Nazi soldiers as he ran toward the woods trying to avoid them.

A German armored car sprayed the field with machine gunfire, and Fuentealba was hit in both legs.

The date was April 14, 1945, according to a profile by the the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The Nazis brought him in as a prisoner of war, but with the Allies continuing their advance, Fuentealba would end up being held for just 22 hours.

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Fuentealba — who was raised by a Chilean father and a German mother in Canton — spoke German, and he helped translate for a captured lieutenant who was negotiating the freedom of a group of American prisoners.

Victory in Europe Day would arrive on May 8, about three weeks after his capture.

Over the next year and a half, Fuentealba spent his time in hospitals, going from England to several facilities in the U.S. for treatment. Eventually, around 1946, he returned home to Baltimore. He’s lived in the city for most of his life, working as a lawyer and rising up the ranks at the American Federation of Musicians.

At a time when roughly 167,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II remain alive, the number of people who can share their lived experiences from World War II is dwindling, Fuentealba said.

“Look at my age, I’m 100,” he said. “How many people are 100 today? Not that many.”

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“And as I say,” he added, “All we’re left with is the history books to describe what happened.”

On Friday, Baltimore City will celebrate veterans like Fuentealba and honor their military service. On Oct. 31, the city announced the Veterans Day parade will return this year for the first time since the pandemic started.

It will begin at noon at the Washington Monument and conclude at the War Memorial Plaza.

Although Fuentealba will not attend the ceremonies in person, he said the holiday remains meaningful.

“The importance of Veterans Day is to remind the public that what you’re enjoying today, you can thank the veterans who fought in all of the different wars in the past, to preserve what we have today, the freedoms that we have,” he said.

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The war, he said, didn’t just affect the lives of soldiers.

“You gotta remember that the war affected the lives of so many people, those that were killed, for example, their families suffered. Those that were wounded, their families suffered, and we still carry the battle scars from that many years ago,” Fuentealba said.

A graduate of Calvert Hall College High School, Fuentealba said he joined the Army in 1942, during his second year of college at the Johns Hopkins University.

He was sent to Indiana, where he served in the Army’s 83rd Infantry Division, and was later moved to Louisiana to serve in the 84th Infantry Division. Around 1944, he was sent overseas to Europe.

Fuentealba said he was assigned to help the medics treat soldiers from the frontlines who were suffering from what was then called “combat fatigue,” what we now know as post-traumatic stress disorder. He would help make sure they got proper medication and help decide if soldiers should return to battle.

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After he recovered from his wounds, Fuentealba went to the University of Maryland law school, graduating in 1950.

He started practicing law, and his career took him to one of his longtime passions: music. At one point, Fuentealba played saxophone and piano six nights a week at Haussner’s Restaurant in Southeast Baltimore.

He took a job with the American Federation of Musicians, a union representing professional players, and eventually rose to international federation president, a position he held from 1978 to 1987, according to an article from the union.

Over the years, Fuentealba has joined a number of veteran organizations — the VFW, American Legion, Military Order of the Purple Heart. About five years ago, he was appointed as a commissioner to the Maryland Veterans Commission, and his post was recently renewed. He also currently serves as the commander for VFW Post 9083 in Parkville, Maryland.

Normally, he said, the VFW post would have a ceremony on Veterans Day commemorating the holiday, but as their membership numbers dwindled, it’s been more difficult to get people to participate.

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After World War II, the post had a little over 2,000 members, he said. Now, it’s a little over 200. All Fuentealba’s friends from the service have since passed away.

But Fuentealba, who celebrated his 100th birthday in September, said he still feels fortunate to be here.

“I’m glad that I’m here to celebrate another Veterans Day,” he said.