With a heart of service, retired U.S. Air Force Chief MSGT Ed Martinez leads other local veterans to help their brothers in arms at The Sgt. Charles A. Fricke Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 805 in O’Fallon. This is Martinez’ second year as commander of the post.
“We exist to help vets in the community, and most people don’t see that side of it,” Martinez said.
This unfortunate reality weighs on Martinez, who has been at the helm of trying to keep up with the maintenance of the aging building located at 221 West First Street in O’Fallon.
“We’re in the middle of renovations right now, but we are very limited to what we can upgrade because our income isn’t where we would like it to be — that’s our biggest challenge,” Martinez said.
Anything above cost to run or accomodate the facility like additional sales from the bar, friday fish fries, video gambling and hall rentals, goes to the veterans the VFW services, he said.
“Anyone can rent our hall for birthdays, weddings or parties, and anyone can come in and order a drink or eat here — this is not a members only establishment, and that’s another obstacle is getting the word out to clarify common misconceptions,” Martinez said.
The only individuals who gain any income from the VFW’s pockets is the bartender — everyone else is a non-paid volunteer, he said.
“We’re all volunteers helping those who’ve served our country to keep us safe, and that’s the heart of it all is our ambitions to give back to our vets,” Martinez said.
Providing funeral honors, running the Veteran’s Day Parade, participating in Memorial Day events, color guard or naturalization ceremonies, the VFW also puts on a local one-block fundraiser race and helps vets who need assistance with utility bills or home furnishing.
Proud commander, Martinez said his post has been selected at the All-State Program level.
“We volunteer at Scott Air Foce Base, churches and the Veteran’s Affairs department and hospital. We accrued 2,800 hours of volunteer time before, and this year we are up to about 900 hours so far,” Martinez said.
Martinez spent nearly 26 years in the USAF working as a ground radio equipment specialist.
“Essentially I worked on mobile communications or air traffic controls equipment, and worked my way up the ranks to Chief MSGT. But I would say half of my career was spent being an instructor teaching others to do my job,” Martinez said.
Now, a father of two adult girls, and a grandfather of two youngsters, Martinez said, he and his wife Debbie Arell-Martinez enjoy bike riding, going to the Belleville Shooting Range or being involved in the local community together.
The two retired from their military communications careers in 2006. Now, Martinez is a information security analyst working in the risk management sector, while his wife is director of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce.
“I help keep the banks computer systems secure and safe from the bad guys basically,” Martinez said. “In our world of technology, everything is done online now, so I try to stay ahead of possible threats or data breaches.”
Martinez is a member of the O’Fallon American Legion Post 137 and the United Methodist Church where he runs the sound board for weekly church services.
“I’m a happy person trying to make a difference, so my goal is to keep doing what I think is right and to help my fellow vets,” Martinez said.
For more information about the VFW visit vfwpost805.org.
Meet Ed Martinez:
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: Find out what God wants you to do, then do it.
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: My wife, Debbie Arell-Martinez. She is the most organized and loving person I know who has put up with me for 28 years and counting.
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?
A: President Ronald Reagan because he cared about our country, led by example and kept our country strong.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: “Imagine Heaven,” by John Burke.
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: Spend time with my family, biking, exercising, going to the shooting range and watching sports.
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
A: Semi-organized chaos.
Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?
A: Join the military.
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
A: I am a team player.
Q: What irritates you most?
A: People who say one thing and do another and political correctness.
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
A: Country, contemporary christian or class rock.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Working with great people.
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: Traveling the world.
Q: What would people be most surprised to know about you?
A: I had my grandfather’s truck restored that he bought brand new in 1956, and I go to car shows in it.
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
A: Gary Sinise. His foundation really cares for veterans and he is a great actor.
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
A: My family and a bible.