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Veteran Oral History - Harry Martinez

  • War/Conflict: Cold War, Desert Shield/Storm, Global War on Terrorism
  • Veteran: Harry Martinez
  • Organization(s): NJ Army National Guard, US Marine Corps, TX National Guard, PA National Guard, US Army
  • Date: March 12, 2007
  • Interviewer: Carol Fowler
  • Summarizer: Amy Baltin
Children holding a flag during the liberation of Kuwait

Children celebrating after the liberation
of Kuwait.

Harry Martinez was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1965, and graduated from Saint Joseph’s High School in Metuchen, New Jersey. He joined the New Jersey National Guard at the age of seventeen, serving with the 250th Signal Battalion’s Headquarters Company, and then, at age twenty-two, enlisted in the US Marine Corps, where he was trained as a sniper, served in various operations in Central America, and in the Gulf War liberation of Kuwait. In 1992 Martinez was discharged from the Marine Corps and moved to Texas. While in Texas, he joined the Texas National Guard’s 49th Infantry Division. When Martinez moved back to New Jersey, he rejoined the New Jersey National Guard and served an active duty stint with the Multinational Observation Force in the Sinai Peninsula.

In January 2005 the Pennsylvania National Guard was soliciting volunteers for a deployment in Iraq. Martinez, by then a staff sergeant, volunteered for the duty. He was sent to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for three months of training, after which, his unit was deployed, initially landing in Kuwait to adjust to the regional climate, before being assigned to an army unit stationed at a Marine Corps base near Ramadi in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.

Shortly after arrival, Martinez was assigned to a sniper section called “Ghost”, where he was immediately asked by the team leader to go on a mission. The team left the base on a patrol at 2:00 AM. They discovered an insurgent planting an IED, and became engaged in a firefight that Martinez described as being the heaviest action he was ever involved in. The Americans shot the bomb planter, but then had to fight off sixteen to twenty other insurgents. He would serve the rest of his tour in Al Anbar as a Sniper Team Leader of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment Sniper Section.

The remainder of Martinez’s year was equally violent. When he went on leave in March, the soldier who took his place was shot six times. Fortunately, five of the bullets were stopped by his IBA Kevlar vest, and one simply grazed his elbow. Martinez said that when the members of his team, code-named “Joker 4” were stationed in Ramadi, they were not allowed to wear patches on their uniforms, because the insignia could be ripped off and leave evidence of identity. His team was issued IR reflection patches, so other US forces could identify them. As the year went on, Martinez’s men developed a good reputation, and were requested by other units to accompany them on almost every mission. It made him proud to know that the regular army thought so highly of his National Guard team.

At the end of his tour Staff Sergeant Martinez returned to New Jersey and was assigned to the 102nd RSTA, New Jersey National Guard. He has been awarded numerous decorations during his service in both the USMC and US Army, including the Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Multinational Force Observer Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, USMC Combat Action Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Navy Unit commendation, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with two stars and the Saudi Arabia/Kuwait Liberation Medal. At the time of his interview, he was employed by the Princeton Township Police Department as a police officer, and member of the department’s Emergency Response Team.

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