Widow of fallen Marine recalls everyday moments
By Emily McFarlan email@example.com April 12, 2012 7:32PM
Julianna Martinez wipes away her tears as she and Gunnery Sgt. Lloyd Beckford attend a press conference Thursday at the Elgin Police Department regarding her late husband, USMC Cpl. Alex Martinez of Elgin, who was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan. April 12, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 14, 2012 8:13AM
ELGIN — Julianna Martinez is glad that her husband, U.S. Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez, had left his wedding ring with her before he left in February for his second deployment to Afghanistan.
It’s kind of slippery, she said Thursday, and he was afraid he’d mess it up or lose it or scratch it more.
She wears it on a chain around her neck now, dangling just below the locket her sister just gave her.
She always wanted a locket, she said. This one has her husband’s photo in it, as well as an engraving of his last post on her Facebook wall: “I loved you yesterday. I love you still. I always have, and I always will.”
“He was a little lovey-dovey,” she said, her face lighting up when she talks about him.
Julianna Martinez is glad now, too, that she quit her job at the Walmart near Camp Pendleton in California, where her husband was stationed. She only had worked there three months, she said, and he always was asking her to call in.
“Now I regret at the time I was mad,” she said. “Now that I think about it, I’m glad everything happened the way it did.”
Cpl. Martinez, 21, of Elgin, was killed April 5 during combat operations in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Gunnery Sgt. Lloyd Beckford, Cpl. Martinez’s platoon sergeant and Marine Corps family liaison, said Thursday that he could not discuss how the Elgin Marine had died, but “that will come out at a later time.”
Julianna Martinez was at home at Camp Pendleton with her roommate, the wife of another combat engineer in the same unit as her husband, when she learned he had been killed.
“They came to my door … and we just knew it was one of our husbands,” she said. “I broke down and, you know, couldn’t believe it. It was unreal. I was still waiting for his call.”
She last had spoken with him the Tuesday before, she said. They usually spoke about three times a week — the longest she’d gone without a phone call was about five days — and he had told her it would be a few days before he’d be able to call again.
The two had met “just hanging out with friends” when Julianna Martinez was a senior at Larkin High School in Elgin, and Cpl. Martinez, a sophomore. Her friends encouraged her to date him, even though he was younger.
She described him as kind, funny, less shy after joining the Marines, but still shy. He enjoyed mixed martial arts and working out.
What she most will miss about him is just his presence, cooking for him, kissing him goodbye in the morning, she said through tears.
Growing up in Elgin, Cpl. Martinez initially thought about becoming a firefighter. But he decided while at Larkin to join the Marines because his dad, Enrique Martinez of Huntley, had been in the Navy, his widow said.
“His mom (Socorro Bethke of Elgin) wasn’t for it. He begged her and begged her until she finally talked to a recruiter and gave in and signed the papers because he was 17,” Julianna Martinez said.
They knew his service would separate them, she said, so they decided to get married, just the two of them, on Dec. 17, 2008, three days after he turned 18, at the courthouse in Geneva. They didn’t even realize they could have a witness, she said.
“As long as it kept us together — that’s all we focused on,” she said.
He enlisted in January 2009. Each time he deployed, their church, Life Changers International in Hoffman Estates, would pray for him, Julianna Martinez said. She had started “dragging” her husband to the church, she said, “although he learned to love it.”
This was his last year in the Marines, she said, and he had planned to move back to the Elgin area, to pursue a career in firefighting, to start a family, when he returned. He came from a big family — five brothers and sisters — and he loved kids, she said.
“We were ready to get out. This was our last year,” she said. “He was ready to be a civilian and live our lives and be normal.”
Cpl. Martinez’s body will return to the city Friday afternoon, escorted from O’Hare International Airport through downtown Elgin by the Patriot Guard, according to Elgin Police Cmdr. Glenn Theriault.
The public information officer said he anticipates the procession will pass through the downtown around 3 p.m. The city of Elgin is encouraging residents to gather at that time along Douglas Avenue near city hall to show their support, he said.
A public wake will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at Laird Funeral Home, 310 S. State St., Elgin, and a funeral service at 1 p.m. Saturday at Life Changers, 2500 Beverly Road, Hoffman Estates, Theriault said.
Julianna Martinez said that in the week since her husband’s death, she has appreciated area residents “showing how proud you guys are” of her husband’s service.
“He would have been really proud seeing everybody. His funeral’s going to be big because everybody wants to show their respect. Just thank you for showing him the honor and respect he deserves.”