Interview with a Patriot
The seven Army Values
Loyalty. Duty. Respect. Selfless Service. Honor. Integrity. Personal Courage. These are the seven Army Values that one must swear an oath to live by if he or she is to become an American Soldier. Henry Martinez is one of those Soldiers. I recently had the honor of interviewing Mr. Martinez on November 2, 2016 in his home with his wife. With Veterans Day approaching, VNA wanted to pay a special visit to one of their most patriotic clients.
The youngest of three brothers, Henry Martinez comes from a proud military family. His parents came to the United States from San Felipe, Mexico in the year 1910 and gained their citizenship for the price of five cents. Henry was drafted by the United States Army to serve in the Korean War in 1950 following in the footsteps of his two older brothers who had already served in the U.S. military in World War II. His oldest brother, Eladio, served in the U.S. Army in the South Pacific. His middle brother, Feliberto, volunteered for the United States Air Force and was stationed only ten minutes from Eladio’s battalion in the South Pacific Campaign. Feliberto visited Eladio on a regular basis during World War II and was called upon to fly a bomber over Hiroshima before the orders were rescinded upon hearing the atom bomb ended the war. When Feliberto learned the war was finally over, he paid a visit to Eladio’s battalion to celebrate with his older brother only to learn he had been killed in action.
Henry doesn’t speak of his own experiences of war, but he is proud to tell the story of his brothers and their commitment to the United States. He keeps meticulous records—every piece of paper inside a sheet protector to preserve the many pieces of history in his possession. With tears in his eyes, Henry talked of his family and the ultimate sacrifice his brother made. He finished his story by saying, “All gave some and some gave all. My brother Eladio gave all to this country. Eladio was proud to be an American.”
Henry Martinez has been with VNA Meals on Wheels for a little over a year. For those who know the route, his home is easy to find with his large patriotic signs standing tall in his front yard. He told me he loves VNA and the kindness of everyone involved, especially the volunteers who come by to see him and say hello. He smiled so wide as he told us about his experience with VNA Meals on Wheels and then went on to say that he felt blessed that VNA Meals on Wheels volunteers and staff were thinking about him every day. Jokingly, I asked him if the meals Meals on Wheels provides taste better than the standard military field rations. He chuckled almost uncontrollably and said, “Of course they do! I eat like a king when you guys come to visit. I’ll take you guys over Army food any day!” Before leaving Mr. Martinez’ home that day, he pulled me close to him, pointed and said “You as a veteran are my brother in arms. We are family just like these guys,” referring to the VNA Meals on Wheels team of staff and volunteers. “We all need to stick together. This world would be a better place with more people like them in it.”
Henry told me where Eladio is buried as well as most of the rest of his family. Being a veteran myself, I felt indebted to this patriot sitting in front of me, so I paid Eladio a visit on Saturday, November 5, 2016. The final resting place of his family was very secluded. The Mexican Flag was flying at half-mast right next to the American Flag. I stood in silence and gave Eladio a gentle salute before departing.
Henry is a true American Patriot. His stories will pull at your heartstrings and put a smile on your face. It’s his charisma and passion about who he is and where he comes from that make him so inspiring. Henry and his family are an American treasure in this author’s eyes. I promised to return to visit him and talk about his journey through life as well as return to visit Eladio for Veterans Day to pay my respects to a fallen hero. Thank you for your service, Mr. Martinez.