Life was tough growing up for Compton-born Jose Martinez.
He spent his childhood learning how to survive the streets and make ends meet, he said. After years of uncertainty surrounding his future, Martinez joined the Army at 23 years old. Just four months into his deployment in Afghanistan, the unthinkable happened: He stepped on a primary IED, setting off a massive explosion.
“When they pulled me out, I grabbed my sergeant’s gun and I said, ‘Shoot me. We’re done here. Tell my mom I’m a hero,'” he said.
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Miraculously, Martinez survived. Ten days after that horrific accident, he woke up from a coma. He had lost both legs and an arm, and doctors told him he’d never walk again.
In this episode of “LA Stories,” Martinez tells host Giselle Fernandez that the months following the accident were the hardest days of his life. He became addicted to opioids and even tried to take his own life. Martinez credits his then-girlfriend Liseth with saving him and giving him a new lease on life. She has since become his wife.
“I don’t think I would even be here if it wasn’t for her,” Martinez said. “She changed me. She showed me how love truly worked.”
As a triple amputee, Martinez enjoys hunting, fishing and swimming. He is even a part of the USA Adaptive Surf team and has his eyes on the Paralympics. He and a friend co-founded Four Season Fighters, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans, firefighters and police officers reconnect with themselves. It also allows them to connect with nature through hunting and fishing expeditions and each other.
For Martinez, the chance to give back and inspire others not just to survive, but thrive, is everything to him.
“That 60-pound IED that I stepped on not just changed me,” he said. “It changed the world.”
Watch “LA Stories with Giselle Fernandez” at 9 p.m. every Monday on Spectrum News 1.