BETHESDA, Md. (CBS4) – A Marine from Westminster on Wednesday was awarded the Purple Heart, the military’s highest honors.
Cpl. Gabriel Martinez, 22, lost his legs in an explosion in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. Martinez remembers the moment the IED detonated beneath his feet.
“I remember myself flying through the air,” Martinez said.
He had been sweeping the area around a crippled Humvee for explosives when he took that fateful step.
“I had this one-on-one with God and he asked me,’Gabe, do you want to live?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I want to live.'”
Martinez was badly hurt. A medic applied tourniquets to both of his legs which he lost during the blast. His head was also wrapped after being hit by shrapnel.
In Afghanistan it’s easiest for Marines to get around on foot. The mode of transport leaves them with only body armor to protect them from roadside bombs. The lack of protection has resulted in a number of double, triple and even quadruple amputees.
Martinez’s best friend, Justin Gaertner, was also injured in the attack. Both men are now double amputees.
The two were evacuated on the same helicopter. Lying side by side, they offered each other comfort.
“I was right there with him and he was right there with me and us holding hands it was a good pain reliever,” Martinez said.
The men are recovering at the Bethesda Navy Medical Center.
Martinez said losing his legs won’t slow him down a bit.
“Knowing that I have a second chance at life there’s no way that I can complain about anything,” Martinez said.
While he still needs a nerve block to handle the pain, he’s remaining optimistic.
“I’m not scared. I’m not worried. I’m just more anxious to put those prosthetic legs on and see how I walk,” said Corporal Martinez. “I might look like Bambi at birth, but it’s going to be exciting,” Martinez said.