Father who joined after sniper killed son deploys to Iraq

FORT WORTH — In a few days, Francisco Martinez will land in Iraq. When Martinez steps off the airplane, he will be in the country that took his only son, a 20-year-old skateboarder and budding graphic artist whose loss is felt every single day of his father's life.

Joining the Air Force Reserve, after a 17-year break in his military service, was Martinez’s way of making sense of and coping with his son's death, a way to remember him by being around young men his age serving their nation. Nobody forced this on Martinez, except maybe the sniper who put one well-placed bullet in Spc. Francisco G. Martinez on March 20, 2005, in Ramadi.

As a condition for her support, he promised his wife, Maria, that he wouldn't volunteer for a tour in Iraq, that he would only go if ordered. But Martinez broke his promise this year and raised his hand, hating that he broke his word but feeling that he could not honorably serve with people doing more than him.

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