A loving husband, son, brother, cousin and uncle with an infectious laugh and a passion for Tapatio hot sauce. A role model to his fellow Marines, a true hero devoted to a life of service.
That's how Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez was remembered Saturday during a solemn, tearful funeral attended by more than 400 people including family, friends, several dignitaries and about 50 servicemen and women at Life Changers International Church in Hoffman Estates. The 21-year-old Elginite died April 5 during combat operations in Afghanistan.
"He always looked at the positive things about everything. He always tried to make you happy no matter how you felt," said his younger brother Nicholas Martinez of Huntley, as he stood in front his brother's casket, which was draped in an American flag.
His older sister Jenny Martinez of Palatine said Alex Martinez always viewed life as something that should be enjoyed. "He was always a protector, and that's why he proudly joined the Marines," she said.
His father, Enrique Martinez, of Huntley, had to steel himself before remembering how his son made an impression on everyone he met, however briefly. "I'm going to miss him. I miss him so much."
Alex Martinez lived a purposeful life, said Gov. Pat Quinn, who spoke at the beginning of the service. "From the day he was born, he was trying to help others. He was a person who understood that helping others is the essence of being a human being on this earth," Quinn said.
Elgin Mayor Dave Kaptain and state Rep. Keith Farnham were also in attendance.
U.S. Marine Maj. David Gideon, officer in charge for the 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, presented a Purple Heart to Alex's widow, Julianna Martinez, on behalf of his commanding officer, Lt. Col. Andrew Neibel, who is still in Afghanistan.
"(Alex Martinez) was a man of solid character and faith, a role model for those he touched. Alex was a standout Marine and combat engineer. There is no doubt he saved lives during his two deployments to Afghanistan," Gideon said, reading from a letter written by Neibel.
Later, the white curtains on the back of the auditorium's stage parted, letting in the afternoon sun and opening onto a view of members of the Marine Corps who rang out a rifle salute from the balcony. Julianna Martinez was then presented with the flag that had covered her husband's casket, with even the occasional baby's cry giving way to a heavy silence.
Despite the enormity of the loss of all who loved Alex Martinez, it's important to remember that his was a life of service, the Rev. Gregory Dickow said.
"Alex served God to the moment of his last breath. He served his family to the moment of his last breath; he served his country to the moment of his last breath. And for that we rejoice, and for that we celebrate," Dickow said.