RIVIERA, TEXAS — A Kleberg County veteran’s drive to serve has extended well into his civilian life.
There aren't many people in Riviera Jerry Martinez doesn't know and who don’t know him. The Vietnam vet is easy to find around town, as he's usually helping someone else.
Martinez volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps in 1967, in ’68 he was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division in Da Nang.
“I was proud to be serving for our country, that’s what we were there for, I wanted to serve,” said Martinez.
After Vietnam, Martinez went home to San Antonio and went to work for HEB, but when his wife Gloria’s parents died, the couple moved to Riviera to be close to her family.
“If it wasn’t for my wife here, who I call the rock, my wall, and when I get kind of down, she picks me back up.,” said Martinez.
“Yeah, he’s my rock too,” Gloria added. “He does everything for me.”
She’s not alone. Gloria says Jerry helps anyone and everyone with anything; from hanging his neighbors’ Christmas lights to assisting other local veterans. He also mows the lawn at the Riviera Post Office to keep in shape.
Martinez says that the drive to serve came from his upbringing and his time in the Corps.
“When we serve our country, we serve to help our country no matter what,” said Martinez. “That’s what we’re supposed to be in this community, or anywhere.”
Martinez’s commitment extends beyond Rivera. Seven years ago, he was presented with a quilt from San Antonio “Quilts of Honor”. Since then, he’s made it his mission to distribute these quilts to other veterans, delivering about 250 himself.
“I think every veteran needs somehow, some kind of recognition, I try to find as many as I can and I keep on doing it,” said Martinez.
Gloria goes with Jerry when he delivers quilts, and says in those moments, she couldn’t be prouder to call him her husband. “I see what it does for him and it just melts my heart.”
Martinez says he doesn’t do what he does for recognition, he simply does it because it needs to be done.
He’s also gotten involved in local politics. This past November, Martinez ran for the Precinct 3 Kleberg County Commissioner’s seat and won.
He'll be sworn in on his and Gloria’s 33rd wedding anniversary on January 1.