October 23, 2010 (Spring Valley) – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has ordered flags in the state capitol flown at half-mast to honor Sergeant Rafael Martinez Jr., 36, of Spring Valley. Martinez was serving his third tour of duty when he was killed on October 14 by insurgents who attacked his unit in Afghanistan with an improvised explosive device. Two other soldiers, Sgt. Carlos A. Benitz and Pfc. Tremaine J. Billingsley, also died from the explosion.
“He served our country with honor, integrity and steadfast loyalty, and in the end he made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty,” the Governor said, extending condolences to the Martinez family. "Rafael will be remembered and honored forever in our hearts."
The fallen soldier’s father never wanted his son to join the Army. But he said, “He loved this country so much and he was so proud to serve the United States of America,” Martinez Sr. said, according to the San Diego Union-Trbiune.
Sgt. Martinez served his first tour of duty in Iraq, when he was injured by a bomb blast and was awarded a Purple Heart. He was serving with the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. The attack occurred during combat operations between Moqur and Darreh-Ye-Bum in northwestern Afghanistan.
Martinez married his wife, Christina, in 2007. He is survived by two young children, a daughter, Davina, and son, Rafael III.
“We love him and miss him very much,” Estela Ballon, Martinez’ brother-in-law, posted on a Los Angeles Times article on Martinez. “He served with great honor and was greatly loved by his fellow soldiers.”
His nephew, Jose Ballon, wrote, “Rafa was the uncle almost every teenage boy wanted. He was funny, smart, and a very loyal friend, husband and family man. He’s honestly the bravest man I knew.”
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, October 25th at Faith Chapel in Spring Valley. A viewing will be held the night before from 5-9 p.m.
According to the Pentagon, there have been 1,348 deaths of U.S. military personnel in Operation Enduring Freedom since the war in Afghanistan began nine years ago in 2001. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined have resulted in 5,743 casualties, according to U.S. Central Command.