MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Franklin E. Martinez knew he wanted to be a Marine when he was in high school. He was in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and loved the tradition and the legacy of the Marine Corps.
After graduating from Deer Field Beach High School in 2002, the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., native joined the Marine Corps and would eventually make his second deployment, which was in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The 21-year-old deployed to Husaybah, Iraq with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. He was a squad leader in charge of Marines protecting the perimeter of Camp Gannon, a small base bordering the city.
Cpl. Martinez said the first day they relieved the unit before them, they knew they were in a combat zone.
“As soon as the unit we relieved left the base, we received mortar fire from insurgents in the city,” he said. “They were testing us to see if we would fire back, and sure enough we did.”
During his deployment, the mortarman manned a machinegun on one of the base’s posts.
“It was a little unusual for me to man a machinegun as a mortarman, but it wasn’t that big of an adjustment,” he said.
He explained one story that sticks out in his mind from the deployment.
“We had been fighting some of the local Iraqi insurgents for the first part of the deployment, but our company commander and our other leaders talked with their leader to make peace and they came to an agreement,” he explained. “Then one night, we were giving them food and health supplies, and I was in amazement that they were finally on our side and saw that we were there to help them.”
The peace was short lived though, Martinez said.
“The next day, the local Iraqis and foreign fighters were battling each other because the Iraqis were on our side,” he said. “It just made me realize what the Iraqi people have to deal with when it comes to the foreign influence of the terrorists.”
The foreign fighters became more violent toward both the Iraqis and the Marines, constantly attacking Camp Gannon with small arms fire, Martinez said.
“It was an intense deployment, but I think we made a difference by the time we left,” he said. “I think we showed the foreign fighters that we weren’t going to back down from them and neither were the Iraqi people.”
With his combat experience, the young Marine leader is preparing to return to Iraq this summer. He says he will have more experience to prepare his Marines for their deployment this time around.
“During this deployment, I’ll probably be a vehicle commander and conduct patrols and raids, something I didn’t do the first time,” he continued. “But, I think because I’ve already been there, I’ll be more prepared myself and better train my Marines.”
Martinez said there are two main things that are needed in Iraq, the ability to observe and discipline.
“With our rules of engagement, you can’t just go around shooting everything, so observation is important,” he said. “And you need to have discipline, because without it you became complacent and that’s dangerous.”
Although the end of his contract is in January 2007, Martinez said that he will extend it to deploy again to serve his country.
He also said when he gets out the Corps he will take one important quality with him everywhere he goes.
“The fact that I’ve been in combat makes any other situation I’ll face seem less difficult,” he said. “I appreciate everything the Corps has taught me about life. I always wanted to do this job, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it.”