Charlie Martinez Jr., 84, knows what overcoming means. From serving in the United States Marine Corps for a decade in the Vietnam War to coming back to life after his leg was amputated, his story has no quitting.
Martinez served in the Vietnam War from 1959 to 1969, he said. After he was honorably discharged, he moved to Fort Worth where he bought his home in the Fairmount neighborhood.
“I bought this house. And I was so naive. I didn’t know it. But I bought two houses — I have a small one in the back,” Martinez said. “The lady in the back brought me a check for $50 — it was the rent. I bought it all for $14,000. Wow. You know, and I just couldn’t believe it.”
On April 27, Roofs for Vets, a branch of Meals on Wheels that aids veterans, installed a new roof on Martinez’s home. The home had gaping holes where rainwater ruined the inside walls and it had been untouched for decades.
Martinez’s neighbors Kathy and Bob Fain moved into their home on Fairmount Avenue about seven years ago and look after him when they can, they said. Martinez had already been there decades.
“When we started redoing the house — it took us a little over a year — and before he lost his leg and everything, Charlie was outside quite a bit, and so he would talk to us and we’d come over and visit with him and talk to him,” Bob Fain said. “We just became closer and then as time went on we’ve just helped out.”
Bob Fain, a retired home seller, grew up in Fort Worth. He would bike up and down the streets in the Fairmount neighborhood, he said. Kathy Fain, a retired Fort Worth ISD school teacher, said taking care of Martinez has been sort of a community effort.
“We aren’t going anywhere. We came here to stay,” Bob Fain said.
Martinez certainly appreciates the help he gets.
“They bring me food. They keep an eye on me. And I need help. I really do,” Martinez said. “They’re not charging me a dime, man. It’s so wonderful.”
Meals on Wheels’ Roofs for Vets program finds veterans who need home renovations every quarter, Philip Gonzalez, a spokesperson for the program, said. Average roof repairs can cost up to $17,000, but with the help of roofing companies, the program is able to fund the renovations.
The renovations are out of Martinez’s control.
Martinez said he doesn’t really know how he lost his leg. One day, about six years ago, he was in the kitchen and couldn’t stand up. Paramedics were called and the next time he woke up, his leg had been amputated.
“You may not want to believe it. But I saw the light when they amputated my leg. I died. I found my mom, my dad and my sister and Jesus told me to go back and I didn’t want to come back,” Martinez said. “I believe he must have me here for a reason. And here I am.”
Even through his trauma, Martinez continues to pray every day and knows he was not taken from this world for a reason.
“A couple of days ago when I went outside — I hadn’t been outside in about three or four years — it was great,” Martinez said. “I’m very proud of my life. God has treated me very good. I don’t ever have any complaints.”
Cristian ArguetaSoto is the community engagement journalist at the Fort Worth Report. Contact him by email or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.