EDWARD AFB – Araceli Martinez, a military spouse and Commissary employee, expected an ordinary day on the job May 5. But as she sat on a bench with the other baggers, Airmen began to approach her one-by-one. Each Airman handed her a single red rose with a message attached to it.
Their motive became perfectly clear and she stood with joy, when from around the corner her husband appeared with the rest of the roses. Tech. Sgt. Donald Martinez Jr. returned home early from a six-month deployment to Southwest Asia.
“From the time I deployed I always knew that I wanted to surprise her,” said Martinez. “She had always been the one picking me up, every time I deployed. I’ve gone to Korea three times; it’s always been her and the kids picking me up after I report.”
Martinez will retire from military service next year. During his service, he has deployed twice and had three assignments in Korea and many temporary duty assignments. Like many servicemembers, Martinez has missed birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.
“Between all my deployments, all my short tours, I calculated it to be about seven out of my 20 years that I’ve been away from my family,” said Martinez.
Martinez and his wife have three children. That afternoon, he surprised his son after school at Branch Elementary and his daughter at Desert High School. His eldest daughter was surprised to see him at home.
“I’m still shaking. It’s a really good surprise, I didn’t expect it,” said Araceli.
Through all of his travels, Martinez said his wife and children have been faithful in picking him up from the airport, but those days are over.
“This time, getting close to retirement, she doesn’t have to pick me up anymore. I’m here for good now,” he said. “If we’re going to the airport, we’re going together as a couple.”