ST. JOSEPH, Mo. --
During Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, we pay special attention to and recognize Airmen of the 139th Airlift Wing from diverse backgrounds.
The month focuses on the contributions and accomplishments of those with Hispanic and Latin-American heritage who have committed their service to the defense of the nation and community.
Maj. José Martinez, a chaplain assigned to the 139th Airlift Wing, comes from a Chicano background while growing up in California. His grandparents immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Bringing their Mexican heritage with them helps them stay connected to their culture.
“I celebrate traditional holidays such as Día de los Muertos, Las Posadas and Cesar Chavez Day as a way to stay connected with my spirituality, ancestry and culture,” said Martinez. “It’s different in the Midwest because it is a mixed group from all different Hispanic groups, but these celebrations still help us be mindful of our unity as humans.”
Martinez has served over 22 years in the military, the last 11 years of which have been in the Missouri Air National Guard at the 139th. He joined partly because of his mother’s service in the U.S. Air Force, but he said he was also motivated by a sense of service to military members and their families, and his family’s history of curanderismo (or traditional healing originating from Latin America).
“I love being a military chaplain,” Martinez said. “It allows me to serve other people and create a safe place for them.”
He has also practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for the past 15 years as a means of personal self-care, recognizing the importance of taking care of himself while taking care of others.
One of his favorite parts of serving is being activated to work with people from many different backgrounds, even when the environments around us are constantly changing.
“We are diverse in the military, and we are one U.S. Air Force,” said Martinez. “Remembering where you came from keeps you in touch with who you are in the midst of the chaos.”