A Chula Vista grandfather who served his country in war and patrolled California's highways for decades is being remembered for his life of service following his death from the coronavirus.
Raul Martinez, 70, was a Vietnam veteran and retired California Highway Patrol officer. He lost his fight to COVID-19 last month, and leaves behind a wife of nearly 50 years, four kids and nine grandchildren.
His daughter, Claudia Martinez, said the family was very careful and took many precautions to avoid exposure to the deadly disease, like wearing masks, practicing physical distancing and limiting outings. But still, Raul Martinez was infected.
Claudia Martinez said she used to visit her parents from afar and would wave at them from a window.
“I kind of wish I would’ve seen him or like given him a quick hug one of those quick times I stopped at my mom’s [house]. I don’t regret being safe, of course. It’s out of love, really,” she said.
Raul Martinez was born in National City, graduated from Sweetwater High School and married his middle school crush, Maria Martinez, according to his daughter.
“My dad, he was the funniest guy. [He] loved family so much, loved his kids, loved his grandkids. He was very proud to be a CHP officer for close to 30 years and even though it was hard for him to talk about Vietnam, he was proud to be a veteran,” Claudia Martinez said.
She said she wishes she had more time with him, but unfortunately, her time was cut short.
Claudia Martinez said her dad started feeling fatigued and had a low-grade fever the last weekend of August. He went to the hospital and was released the same day, but at home he wasn’t doing any better. The following week later he began having difficulty breathing and was admitted to the intensive care unit.
“It was a roller coaster after that,” said Claudia Martinez. On Sept. 20, her father's health took a sharp turn for the worse and he passed away.
“I mean even talking about it, I get speechless because I can’t believe how quickly it all happened. And the thing that kills me is not being there with him, and holding his hand, giving him a hug, praying by his bedside, even if he couldn’t talk to us because I feel like him hearing our voices, seeing our faces could make a huge difference,” explained Claudia Martinez.
Raul Martinez's family isn't sure how or where he contracted COVID-19.
“However he caught it, I feel cheated by that person or group of people and it could have been avoided for sure,” said Claudia. She’s encouraging people to wear masks and keep their distance to protect themselves and the people around them.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this interview, but if five people out there see this and decide, 'OK, I need to get back on track, I need to check myself,’ then it was worth it,” said Claudia Martinez. She said her dad was diabetic, but otherwise in good health. Her mom also tested positive for COVID-19 and is recovering.
Friends of the family setup a GoFundMe page to assist with medical and funeral expenses.