Dear Michael –
You’ll probably be getting a lot of mail that starts this way: You don’t know me but…
Well, you don’t know me, but I am writing to you because I heard about your injury and I wanted to help. In the grand scheme of things, I’m sure this letter won’t mean a lot in terms of helping you. I’m probably doing it more for myself because I’ve been here where it’s been safe. I don’t feel like I’ve contributed much or sacrificed much to protect freedom. I’ve been thinking about you and your family a lot since I heard about your injury, and about what I wanted to say to you.
I’ve heard that you don’t want to be called a hero, and that you were just doing your job when your life changed irrevocably. I won’t call you a hero. But that doesn’t change how I feel about you. You were aware of the dangers when you signed up – and you did it anyway.
I understand that hero is something we non-heroes invent. We admire courage and fearlessness in the face of danger, and there’s a part of us that wonders what we would do in a dangerous situation. Would we carry on? Would we rally our strength to get the job done? Would we be able to walk out that door knowing there was a very good possibility that we might not be able to walk back through it?
I’m not sure. I have a pretty strong sense of self-preservation, which is a fancy way of saying that I’m chicken-shit. Hearing your story, and learning a little bit about you from my current Prescott High School students who know you has been inspiring. I imagine that you must be hurting so much. I imagine that you must be so angry. I imagine that you must be so scared. But what I’m hearing is that you are staying strong, you are keeping a positive attitude, and you remain courageous in the face of an arduous recovery. And that makes me want to be stronger. You make me want to try harder to keep my own attitude in check. You make me dig deep for my own source of courage when I need it to face the small obstacles that come my way.
I am so sorry that this happened to you, and I wish you the smoothest recovery possible. Please know that there are hundreds of people here in Prescott, and elsewhere, who admire and respect you, and who did so even before your injury. And now, even while you don’t want to be a hero, you are a source of great strength for us. And because your story has strengthened us, we can hope to shoulder some of this burden for you and your family. Let us.
Prescott High School
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Michael Martinez was wounded March 11, 2010, when an IED exploded during a mission in Afghanistan. He is a 2008 graduate of Prescott High School in Prescott, Arizona. You may send well wishes to him and other wounded soldiers at:
Bethesda Naval Hospital, 8901 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20889