Had he not been the youngest of his high school class, Mr. Martinez would have joined all his friends and enlisted during the Korean War in 1949. Instead, he was forced to stay behind and decided to get his degree in order to be qualified to sign up for Marine Corps flight training in Pensacola. Flying became his first love-affair. He was ready to serve our country as an aviator….just when the war ended! He remained in Pensacola and was put to good use as a flight instructor.
After many harrowing rescue missions and supply drops,
Mr. Martinez found himself back in the U.S. in 1966 with orders to head to the HMX-1 Squadron in Quantico, Virginia. He was asked to fly co-pilot Marine One with President Johnson to a Latin American Conference in Punta del Este, Uruguay. Upon their return, for undisclosed reasons, the Full Bird got relieved. For the next four years, he became the trusted Marine One pilot for President Johnson and his family, and even got invited to attend a Presidential Sunday barbeque.
He once got orders to pick up former President Eisenhower. Mr. Martinez learned that former President Eisenhower very specifically did not like to be known as an ex-president; he liked to be known as a Retired General. The plaque on the side of the helicopter had to be switched out quickly to remain on Eisenhower's good side.
Mr. Martinez’s humble manner of speaking and downplayed war stories are in truth nothing but heroic and unbelievable. I listened, captivated by story after story of rescue missions in thick enemy fire in the jungles of Vietnam. It was clear that Mr. Martinez was recognized as a brave, steady pilot who selflessly did whatever it took to bring back as many American soldiers as his choppers would carry. We thank you for your service for our country!