Military and other records available on Ancestry show that Demi’s paternal grandfather, Francisco “Frank” Nathaniel Lovato, with only three years of high school, joined the New Mexico National Guard on July 24, 1940, as the Nazis marched across Europe. Then, on January 6, 1941, 11 months before the United States formally entered World War II, Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Frank went on to endure some of the most terrible treatment to befall any American soldiers during the war. Assigned to a mechanized artillery unit in the Philippines, he lived through an attack that coincided with Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Several weeks later, he was captured by the Japanese. Frank survived the notorious Bataan Death March of April 1942, in which the Japanese marched 80,000 Filipino and American prisoners of war to POW camps amid vicious abuse. An estimated 2,500–10,000 Filipino and 100–650 American prisoners of war died during the 60-mile march.
Afterwards, Frank was forced to labor in a coal mine camp in Japan. While a prisoner of war, he witnessed the flash of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. Something about the military must have still appealed to Frank, though. After his release at the end of the war, Frank, by then a sergeant, re-enlisted in the newly formed Air Force, where he served until his retirement in 1961.
Frank isn’t the only Lovato ancestor with war experience. Demi’s paternal line includes some of the earliest settlers in the American Southwest. Her conquistador ancestors helped found Ranchos de Albuquerque, Nuevo Espana, now known as Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her third great-grandfather Francisco Perea was one of the first congressmen from the territory of New Mexico.
During the Civil War, Perea formed a battalion, known as Perea’s Battalion, from the Territory of New Mexico to fight for the Union. Perea was in the audience at Ford’s Theater the night Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Francisco’s daughter Maria Christina married Donaciano Lovato. Francisco’s grandson Anastacio Lovato, born in 1887, was the father of Sergeant Frank Lovato, Demi’s grandfather.
Can the fighting spirit really be passed down? Ask Demi Lovato.