Staff Sergeant, Sandra Martinez, talking to the Middle Schoolers
On November 11, Veterans Day, Staff Sergeant Sandra Martinez visited Westridge Middle School to talk about her experience as a part of the Marines. As the seventh and eighth graders gathered in the Mudd Pit, clamoring and chatting, Sandra observed her audience calmly, a small smile on her face. After a short introduction, she stood up and began to tell her story.
“I had always thought I was the center of the world … until I joined the military.”
For Martinez, military service opened up new opportunities even though she did mention the difficulties of being a woman in the military. During training, she pushed herself to work ten times harder than everyone else to prove her ability to the people who called her out for being too weak. It was a very eye-opening experience for Martinez; she had never had anyone speak to her like that because of her gender. However, she didn’t let the others’ criticisms drag her down. Sandra used their words as motivation to work even harder to earn her peers’ respect.
Being in the military left Sandra with many great memories. She told the Middle School about how she got into the military and her experiences during training. Sandra was particularly fond of a jacket she received during negotiations to make her join the military, saying she fell in love with it at first sight and demanded the original owner give it to her or else she wouldn’t accept their offer.
Her experiences in the military have left her more grateful for the people who have taken her place after retiring for sixteen years. Because she had enjoyed reading letters and cards while she herself was deployed, she makes sure to send letters to the soldiers who risk their lives for our country as often as possible and support organizations that help disabled veterans.
One of the first things Sandra remembered when she joined the military was that she was told to write her will. Hearing this at the young age of 19, Sandra was genuinely shocked and fearful of the path she had chosen.
“When you’re young, you think, ‘I’m never going to get hurt. … I’m not going to die. Nothing will happen to me because I’m invincible.’ Well, when you see your friends coming back, but they’re not the way you left them. You can’t talk to them anymore because they’re in body bags. It’s kind of sad.”
During her deployment for Operation Desert Storm, Sandra got the chance to go to Italy, Japan, the Philippines, and Australia. There she had to live through rough conditions. At one point, it even required her to shower by using buckets to splash water on herself. Even so, the thought of war worried her and gave her a new perspective on her role in the world.
“We all bleed the same color. We’re all brothers and sisters. Even though we may not get along with everybody all the time, we’re all humans. And it was very difficult to see somebody who wanted to kill you just because of the uniform you’re wearing.”
The Westridge Middle School thanked Martinez for sharing her experience and learned many things during her time as a part of the Marines. Many students remained after her talk to give their personal thanks for her service.