Memorial Day weekend is often called the unofficial start of summer. And while the scene at San Diego beaches would seem to support that, the real meaning is far more serious, and far less celebratory.
There are dozens of events over the weekend marking the true meaning of Memorial Day, and for a handful of families, no event was more meaningful than what happened in Chula Vista Friday morning.
The City of Chula Vista officially named seven streets after U.S. military service members who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Among those new streets is Martinez Drive, named after 24-year-old Army Sgt. Michael Martinez, killed by an IED in Iraq on June 28, 2007, along with four other Americans.
Ten years after Michael's death, his family still hurts.
"It just hasn’t gotten any easier," said his father, Manny Martinez. "Every time that I go there at Fort Rosecrans, and I see his name on the headstone, I cry because it still hurts."
The Martinez house is filled with photos and tributes to Michael. Manny says it’s so they never forget. His fear is that not everyone has those reminders of his son.
"A lot of friends that Michael had, they don’t come around like they did the first couple years, and I understand that. They need to go on with their lives," said Manny. "But I can’t. I have to live with it. He was my son."
It helped when Eastlake High School named the school’s baseball field after Michael. Now, the street sign will be another reminder, as will streets named for six other families whenever they drive through Otay Ranch.
The new streets are:
- Lorenzo Road for U.S. Army SSGT Kristofferson Lorenzo killed in Afghanistan in 2011
- Paseo Bachar for U.S. Marine CPL Salem Bachar, killed in Iraq in 2003
- Idanan Road for Army SGT Michael J. Idanan killed in Iraq in 2005
- Mattero Ave for U.S. Army SSGT Joshua Mattero killed in Iraq in 2007
- Spivey Road for U.S. Army SPC Curtis R. Spivey killed in Iraq in 2007
- Wyckoff Street for U.S. Army SGT Charles Wyckoff Jr. killed in Afghanistan in 2007
Near each sign will be a brief description of the person behind the name.
No sign can erase the pain these families feel every day, nor outweigh the mementos most of them have in their homes. What those signs will do is make sure that those names are remembered more than one holiday weekend every year.
"Their legacy is going to live on forever," said Manny. “It’s something that we can carry with us, and makes us feel good that people still care.”