Based: Ft. Lewis, Wash.
5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: July 14, 2004
Tall Afar (near), Iraq
High School: Duncan-Russell High School (Tracy)
Burial: Tracy Public Cemetery, Tracy, Calif.
From the LA Times:
As a toddler, Jesse Jack Martinez earned his nickname "Toad" because of the way he asked for soda.
"He couldn't say 'soda,' so he said he wanted some 'toda,' " his mother, Jan Martinez, 49, recalled. "His godfather gave him that nickname."
Such memories bring a smile to her face, and she shares them with friends and strangers as she talks about her youngest son, who died July 14 in Iraq. But when she is driving, alone with her thoughts, the resolve crumbles. In the car is where "I break down, where something little sets me off."
But, she added, "I don't think Jesse would want me totally falling apart. He would want me telling people how proud I was of him."
She takes comfort in words from her son's commanding officer.
"He said that if Jesse was looking for his place in life, he found it in what he was doing over there," she said. "I would ask my son what kind of soldier he was; he would say, 'Mom, I'm the greatest.' But to hear from the commander that the men liked him a lot, that he was a morale booster, that he was so positive ... it made me very proud."
Army Pfc. Jesse Jack Martinez, 20, of Tracy, Calif., was one of two soldiers killed when their vehicle rolled over as the driver tried to avoid another vehicle in Talafar. He was assigned to the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, at Ft. Lewis, Wash.
Martinez is the fourth Tracy resident to die serving in Iraq since the war began last year.
Two days before he died, Martinez had called his mother from Iraq to give her good news.
"He said he thought he had his leave approved for the end of the month," she said. "He said, 'Mom, don't tell anybody please. I want this to be a surprise.' "
She sent him a care package that included cookies, pictures of his prized beige Ford pickup with new rims, and pictures of his month-old nephew, who was named after him.
In telephone calls from Iraq, his mother recalled, he said, "Baghdad was a big beautiful city, but then you would get through the really pretty part, and it was really poor." He also spoke of his fellow soldiers. "He talked about the closeness of his unit," she said. "They were part of his family."
His friends had urged the graduate of Duncan-Russell Continuation High School in Tracy not to join the service, his mother said.
"They told him, 'You don't want to do it; there's a war going on,' " she said. "But it was something he really wanted to do. Our town is not that big. He had worked a little bit and had got laid off, and he knew I couldn't afford to send him to college."
Portrait courtesy of Fallen Heroes Project
Martinez was born in Germany, where his father, Manuel Martinez Jr., was serving in the Army. The son planned to become a police officer when he left the service.
Jan Martinez's brother, Jeff Reed, a deputy in the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, had been an influence.
"I was quite honored that he would follow in my footsteps," Reed said. "He was by no means a warmonger or into guns or action movies. But he said this job was important to him, and he wanted to serve his country. And that's what he did with honor."
Martinez was buried with full military honors Thursday in Tracy. Besides his parents, he is survived by his brother, Manuel, 26, and sister, Teresa, 28.
Read more about Army Private First Class Jesse Jack Martinez in
and at the Iraq Page.
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