U.S. Army Master Sergeant Mike Martinez he had his first overseas assignment 22 years ago, in Saudi Arabia. When he went, he couldn’t imagine the role he’d be playing to his fellow service members today.
According to CNN:
He’s on a mission to educate Latino troops, in particular, whom he says are likely to feel a cultural stigma surrounding mental health treatment.
“I tell my Hispanic brothers that are still serving, don’t let pride get in the way,” Martinez said. “Pride’s going to kill you. Take that warrior mask off and if you need to, get help. Get it in the beginning stages, and not later.”
Martinez’s advice comes from experiencing two different wartime traumatic events.
In 2007, during his first tour in Iraq, Martinez’s battalion was hit by an explosive while they were driving through Mosul.
“I couldn’t feel the left side of my face,” he said. “I was pinned with my first purple heart, and my Command Sergeant Major said ‘Hey, we can send you to the rear.’ I said ‘No sir, I can still fight.’ And so I chose to stay and fight…but I knew something was wrong.”
He continued to fight in Iraq for two more years, until a bomb split his vehicle in half. This time, the impact nearly killed him.
“I remember calling my wife, saying I didn’t think I was going to make it,” he said. “I told her it’s been a good ride, take care of the boys…and I was out.”
When he returned to the United States, he came face to face with an even bigger, personal battle.
“I remember my boys saying, ‘Welcome home.’ I could see them but I couldn’t feel. That’s because of PTSD and traumatic brain injury. I just felt cold,” Martinez said.
He is taking his story public by not only speaking through the USO, but also in the first of a series of public service announcements from the USO called Invisible Wounds. These PSAs are aimed at increasing awareness about TBI and PTSD, as well as helping soldiers feel less alone and more empowered to seek help.
Read more about Invisible Wounds and Sergeant Martinez at CNN.com