SAN ANTONIO - It has been three years since an explosion at the airport in Brussels killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds more. The Martinez family was there when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device.
Gail Martinez died, her husband and children survived, but suffered serious injuries.
While life has been difficult, the legacy of love from a mother and wife has encouraged the family to overcome some of its biggest obstacles.
“I saw dead bodies. Something a 12-year-old shouldn’t see at that age,” Kimo Martinez, Martinez's son, said.
Kimo Martinez remembers the smallest details of that day.
“They picked me up and they carried me to the bathroom and they padded me down with paper towels and extinguished the flames. They carried me onto the counter and you see a mirror straight in front of you. I just looked straight at the mirror and my face is all bloodied up, tears rolling down my cheek and all I can taste in my mouth is burnt, ash and charcoal,” Martinez said.
Martinez was with his father, mother and three other siblings at the time.
“Everything went into slow motion and I just see black ash falling. Fire on the seats. Everything is broken down and just people screaming,” he said.
It would be the last time Martinez saw his mother.
“I saw her laying down with her jean jacket and blue scarf. I can notice the blond streaks anywhere. I felt like I could tell them what was wrong with her. She had high blood pressure. One kidney. I felt like if I could communicate that message, it would have helped in some sort of way, but I come to understand that there is nothing I could do,” Martinez said.
Air Force Col. Melchizedek “Kato” Martinez said he misses his wife every day.
“I was responsible for the security of four-star generals in Afghanistan, and I let her down. I let my kids down. So I have to live with that every day,” he said.
Col. Martinez was a communications officer who worked with Special Operations Forces and was just back from Afghanistan. His family was living in the Netherlands and they were heading to Orlando, Florida, for a vacation at the time of the blast.
“As a military spouse, you prepare your children for one eventually that one possibility that daddy won’t come home or in some cases, Mommy won’t come home. She did that so well. These children, unfortunately, it was her that didn’t come home,” Col. Martinez said.
The entire family suffered injuries.
“I was in the hospital for four straight months, recovering, rehabilitating. Two months after that I was in therapy, physical therapy, mental therapy,” Kimo Martinez said.
The family members have coped with pain, both to their bodies and to their spirits. But it is their love for Gail that has kept them pushing forward.
“We just take it one day at a time and that’s all I can do. Do I think about tomorrow? No. I think about personally being a better father today,” Col. Martinez said.
Kimo is now 15 years old and a member of John Jay High School’s Air Force JROTC Drill Team.
“All the tough times that I’ve been through, it just pushed me harder and a harder worker. That’s one thing I have to live up for. Especially for my mom,” Kimo Martinez said.
When the family had a choice to relocate, Col. Martinez said San Antonio was an easy decision.
“The whole community, the whole Air Force community, 58th wing, the Center for the Intrepid, Fort Sam, my military family warped their arms around us,” Col. Martinez said.
He now works with the Gold Star Family Program and advocates for the Wounded Warrior Program at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.
He said there isn’t a day that passes that he doesn’t think about the love of his life.
“If I can be a fraction of what she was, then I’m doing OK,” Col. Martinez said.
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