Remembering Saturnino Martinez
By Circe Olson Woessner
This blog has accompanying audio. Click on the bold print to hear it…
Service runs deep in the Martinez family. Just ask Jerry Martinez who served over two decades in the military, and today, is very active in the Northern New Mexico Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America. Just ask his brother, Domingo, who is currently the Santa Fe County Assessor, and prior to that, served as the New Mexico State Auditor. He also actively volunteers in the community.
What makes the Martinez brothers feel so obligated to serve their communities? What makes Jerry feel compelled to participate in a local all-volunteer honor guard which performs at military funerals, solemn ceremonies and patriotic events?
Simple. They learned service at home.
I first became aware of Saturnino Martinez when I got an email from Larry “Wolfman” Hurtado, our Veteran Liaison. His message read:
PFC SATURNINO MARTINEZ
BATTLES AND CAMPAIGNS: RHINELAND, CENTRAL EUROPE, NORMANDY,
NORTHERN FRANCE, ARDENNES
You might want to interview Jerry about his father.
I spoke with Jerry and his brother Domingo Martinez by phone one snowy night in January 2013.
I started by asking this: What do you want people to know about Saturnino?
Saturnino Martinez was born June 10, 1919 in Pecos, New Mexico. He died May 22, 2009, in Santa Fe—only about 25 miles from his birthplace.
Jerry and Domingo have fond memories of growing up in Santa Fe; in fact, they still live there amongst extended family and friends.
The Martinez family is big and consists of cousins, uncles, aunts, grandchildren and friends throughout the greater Santa Fe area. They are close-knit, supportive and loving. Many of them have served in the military. Even with all the Veterans in their family, as children, Jerry and Domingo rarely heard stories about war; their father and mother rarely mentioned it, at all.
As for war souvenirs, Saturnino only had one, and he kept it to remind him of his service and why he was against war:
During the Vietnam War, Jerry went into the Marines. Saturnino, who had seen and experienced so much killing, had only a few words of advice for his son.
It wasn’t until after Jerry came home from war, and in fact had retired from the military, that they guessed the full extent of their father’s inner pain. When Saturnino became ill, Jerry tried to get his father some VA Benefits. Only then, did Saturnino share his wartime experiences with his boys. Partway into the process of applying for benefits, Saturnino, simply said “enough”. He didn’t want to continue, and Jerry had to try another route to get his father some much-needed support.
Journalist Tom Brokaw wrote a book called The Greatest Generation, and that term can definitely be applied to Jerry’s and Domingo’s parents. I asked what their father’s greatest lesson for them was?
I learned a great deal more about Saturnino Martinez through conversation. He has a grandson and great-grandson named for him. He was funny and always cracking jokes. He used one of his favorite expressions “‘Atta Boy”‘ a lot–especially while he was mentoring or encouraging one of his many grandchildren. He jokingly referred to his great grandchildren as “chickens” and lovingly called his daughter-in-law Teresa, “Brown Sugar”. His house was filled with love and laughter.
Listening to Jerry and Domingo speak about their father with such compassion and pride made me think to ask one more thing: describe their him in one word…
As we wrapped up the conversation, I had a much clearer image of this caring, approachable, hardworking man. The Center of his family circle, Saturnino guided and influenced a good many generations with his quick wit and sense of humor–and another favorite saying:
“Are you ready for the Freddie? Vamonos, Vamonos!”