Airman follows dad’s lead, applies lesson to life, career

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Janelle Patiño
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Not every son gets a chance to live out his father’s legacy. For Senior Airman Christopher Martinez, an 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron crew chief, each day served in the Air Force is an opportunity to honor his father’s, Tech. Sgt. Gilbert Martinez, memory.

Martinez, along with his two brothers, didn’t find out about their father’s death until the day after his passing when their mother and grandparents gathered them in their living room to deliver the tragic news in February 2013.

“I couldn’t believe it, so I left the room to be alone while my brothers stayed in the living room with my grandparents,” he recalled. “I tried calling my father in disbelief of the situation.”

With the tragic news taking over his mind and body, all Martinez could think of were memories spent with his father, to include them talking about Martinez joining the military to follow his father’s footsteps. Being the oldest child, he felt it was his responsibility to honor and set a good example for his two younger brothers.

“I already had the idea of joining the Air Force before my dad left us, but his death pushed me to go into the service sooner than I was expecting,” he said. “I did it to honor his name and continue his legacy after he had dedicated his life helping others for 18 years.”

Martinez entered basic military training a few months after his father’s passing with the help of a family friend, a retired chief master sergeant, who was inspired by Martinez’s ambition to continue the family’s military legacy.

“My dad was a crew chief during his first enlistment for six years, so I decided to follow his lead to get to where he was,” Martinez said. “With an unfortunate event in my life, I found a way to make it a positive and honor his name and what he has done for our family and our country.”

Martinez said his military career has been a learning process that’s taught him many lessons, giving him an understanding of what his father experienced while he was in the Air Force.

“My dad was a big part of why I decided to join and work as a crew chief since he would always talk about what he learned through the labor of doing what he did,” he said. “I now understand why he had a challenging time based on the amount of hours he worked, which led to not having enough time for us, his family.”

Even though Martinez said he had an idea of what military life was like through being a military child, joining the Air Force and experiencing it firsthand made him feel closer to his father and the responsibilities he had as an NCO.

“I have more of an open mind when listening to the wisdom my peers offer. I have a lot more respect for NCOs because I saw what it was like when my dad was in,” he said. “I understand that people above me are there to help improve the Airman tier and cultivate their troops into becoming better Airmen and individuals.”

Martinez said he feels indebted to his father as he reflects on his father balancing a career and family as he now goes through it himself with his wife as they establish a family.

“The one thing I picked up from my dad is family values. He cross-trained after six years not because he didn’t like his job, but because he wanted to spend more time with his family,” he said. “Even though he and my mom divorced when I was a kid, he remained close to us and was supportive of anything that we wanted to do with our future.”

All the years spent as a military child and now serving his country himself made Martinez see and realize why his father wanted him to join.

“Since joining the military, it has made me realize some things that I wouldn’t have dealt with if I were in the civilian world,” he said. “(By working as a C-17 Globemaster III crew chief) and knowing what we support, I don’t just get to say ‘it’s just another day at work,’ because what we do here daily helps not just me, but our troops downrange and our country.”

In addition, Martinez said this deployment is closer to his heart not only because it is his first deployment, but because the aircraft he launches helps someone important to him.

“My wife’s mom, a master sergeant in the Air Force, is stationed where we launch our C-17s,” he said. “It makes me really happy to know that what I do is supporting someone that’s not only a part of my military family, but also my immediate family.”

According to Martinez, he would not be as focused on strong family values, discipline and respect for those he serves next to if it were not for his father.

“From the days in BMT up to now on my first deployment, as I put my uniform on I’m representing my country on one side and my family name and legacy on the other, which I am honored to do,” Martinez said.

If given a chance to talk to his father one more time, all that comes to Martinez’s mind is thanking him for what he has done for their immediate and military family.

“If I ever see him again, I would thank him for the time he took to serve, and I hope that what I do today is similar to what he did,” he added. “I hope that what I’m doing is the same level of help and professionalism he provided other people when he was here.”