AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – She started early in the morning making burritos that she sells for a few dollars at a time. Before she headed out, she piled well over 100 in coolers, wrapped with foil and piping hot.

Kay Martinez has been a single mom for decades, raising children by scraping together enough money.

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“I don’t have time to just make a ton of money and putting my every ounce of being into making money. That’s not what I’m about,” she said.

What she is about, is giving back in her own way. For months, Kay had been heading to her favorite job site. It was a pretty good trip from Westminster to Aurora, but there was something special that drew her there.

“Great attitude; I mean absolutely astonishing,” a construction worker said.

“The best burritos,” remarked another.

The workers would reserve a spot for her at the front of the line of the vendors. Only a few knew Kay’s little secret. She loved to come because they were building the new Veteran’s Administration Hospital.

“I realize that I am servicing the guys with burritos that are building the hospital that will one day service my son,” Kay said.

Her son is Marine Corps veteran Cpl. Gabriel Martinez. He lost both of his legs to an IED explosion in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day of 2010.

Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

“Every Thanksgiving that passes I could have been mourning the loss of my son,” Kay said. “But instead of mourning, I’m celebrating the fact that I have my son. He is alive.”

So many people helped her son through. Most notably, the medics and doctors and nurses and physical therapists and the Semper Fi Fund organization. So many to name. But it was a mom’s example that may have helped the most.

“Raised by that and seeing the struggles my mom was able to get through definitely was encouraging when I went through some of the hardest times in my life,” said Gabriel.

Gabriel now travels to California to have his prosthetic legs adjusted. His mother hopes he can get help in Colorado. Gabriel, his wife and their little girl are doing well. They got a house in Parker, but spend much of the time with his mother. It’s a home with other siblings and a strong matriarch.

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Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

Gabriel Martinez (credit: CBS)

“First of all I wouldn’t be here and second of all I just wouldn’t be the man I am today,” said Gabriel.

He too has found a way to contribute. He has traveled to Boston several times to give encouragement and advice to the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing. He stands tall again on his new legs.

“I have never, ever heard him complain about losing his legs. Never once,” said Kay.

“I’ve seen many service members, friends of mine, that don’t have the great support that I do with my family and it’s night and day difference when you don’t have that support,” said Gabriel. “It’s a lot easier to fall in that slump, to fall in that dark place. And so you know thank God that I have the great family I do.”

Kay is managing to put herself through school too. The last of her children will soon turn 18 and she wants to build a career by working with women inmates who’ve made mistakes in their lives. She’s never been able to put anything away for retirement and never bought a home, but she feels she has a lot.

Kay and Gabriel Martinez

Kay and Gabriel Martinez

“I have the clothes on my back, I’ve got food in my mouth. I’ve got all of my kids and the love of my kids. And you know what? Each one of them are my trophy. Each one of them brought me such honor.”

Last week a dispute between the contractor and the VA about cost overruns shut the work site down. Her friends, the workers who waited for her every day, are either out of work or off to a new job. This Christmas Kay is looking for the right place to sell her burritos. But no place will be as special at the VA Hospital site.

Kay and Gabriel both credited the organization Semper Fi Fund for helping a great deal after Gabriel lost his legs. Those interested in helping that organization can visit semperfifund.org for more information.

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