Corporal Gabriel Martinez and his wife, Kayla, were married only three months before Gabe was deployed to Afghanistan with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion (CEB) in October 2010. Just one month later, on Thanksgiving Day, Gabe called Kayla with the devastating news that he had been injured by an improvised explosive device (IED) blast and medevaced out with one of his best friends. Both men lost their legs.
The Semper Fi Fund supported Gabe's family while they were with Gabe in the hospital in Bethesda, MD so that they could remain by his side when he needed them most without added financial pressure. The Semper Fi Fund also helped Gabe and Kayla move their belongings to their new home in California and provided additional assistance to Gabe's family, allowing them to visit him when he left the hospital without having to worry about financial repercussions. Gabe was even able to purchase specialized athletic equipment and an adaptive truck, thanks to the assistance of the Semper Fi Fund.
Despite the loss of his legs, Gabe continues to be an extremely positive young man, always in a good mood and wearing a smile! In no time at all, Gabe learned to walk again on his new legs and has since been very busy rock climbing, skiing, biking and handcycling. He is also an active member of Team Semper Fi.
However, Gabe does still face certain difficulties of walking on prosthetic legs. For example, he sometimes has trouble bending down to pick things up. In 2011, to help him in his daily life, Gabe received a service dog that he named Wonka. Wonka can pick things up for Gabe and open doors when Gabe is in his wheelchair. Wonka can even fetch a drink from the refrigerator! In early 2012, Wonka became ill due to something that he had ingested. The Semper Fi Fund's Tim and Sandy Day Canine Companion Program took care of veterinary expenses, as well as necessities for Wonka, such as dog food. Wonka quickly returned to health and went back to assisting Gabe, who says he "feels blessed" to have a friend like Wonka in his life.
While heroically standing by Gabe's side and helping him during recovery, Kayla also managed to accomplish milestones of her own. In May 2011, Kayla received her bachelor's degree. She is also very active at the hospital helping other young wives of injured service members deal with the new challenges they face. She wants to make sure they know they're not alone.
On October 30, 2012, Gabe and Kayla celebrated the birth of their first child – their beautiful daughter, Madelynn Grace Martinez.
Gabe is an inspiration to us all. He says his favorite quote is, "Tough times don't last, but tough Marines do." In the case of this Marine, that is surely a fact.