TRACY, CA, USA U.S. Army PFC, B COMPANY, 5TH BATTALION, 20TH INFANTRY REGIMENT, FORT LEWIS, WA 98433 TALAFAR, IRAQ 07/14/2004
A 20-year-old soldier from Tracy died Wednesday in a vehicle accident in Iraq just two weeks before he was scheduled to come home for a short leave, his family said.
Private Jesse Jack Martinez died when a vehicle carrying him and three other soldiers overturned outside of Mosul, his mother, Jan Martinez, said. An Air Force chaplain and an Army sergeant came to the family’s home Wednesday to deliver the news.
“My heart fell” when she opened her door, Martinez said.
Private Martinez joined the Army because he thought it would help him become a police officer, his family said. He was a member of the Fort Lewis, Wash.-based Stryker Brigade combat unit and had been in Iraq since November. An avid Oakland Raiders fan and a 2002 graduate of Duncan-Russell High School, Martinez wouldn’t let friends dissuade him from joining the Army, his family said.
“He talked about it and talked about it,” his older sister Teresa Martinez said. “And then one day, he really did it.”
Jan Martinez said she talked to her son Monday and told him about the new tires mounted on his F-150 truck parked in the front driveway.
He also asked her to send him a care package. She mailed it off the next day, filling it will powdered Gatorade, chocolate chip M&M cookies and pictures of his month-old nephew. Jan Martinez said she was proud when she found out he was being sent to Iraq, but feared he might be injured or killed.
“It’s always the thought in your mind, you never know,” she said. “But you never think it will happen to you.”
Jan Martinez said Jesse saw military service as a way to get a college education, something he might not otherwise have been able to afford. He wanted to become a police officer after he returned, she said. Then, he wanted to teach.
“He set a lot of goals,” said his sister, Teresa Martinez.
Jesse Martinez was proud to be in the Army, his family said, but homesick, too. He called home every couple of days, sometimes asking, “What’s going on with the Raiders?” Ralph Martinez remembered. He also asked about his nieces and nephews. When the children took a trip to Six Flags Marine World, he asked his mother to withdraw money from his bank account so that they could bring home souvenirs.
“I think that was his way out of the war,” Jan Martinez said of her son’s frequent calls and efforts to be a part of family events. “He just missed home.”