Hero welcomed home

Navy Seaman Apprentice John Martinez, right, was welcomed home Friday by family and friends to spend the holidays. (Freedom Newspapers: Marlena Hartz)

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

A Clovis family gave their hero the homecoming of a king Friday.

Eighteen people spread across a corner by the Greyhound bus station in Clovis, sang carols and waved neon signs that read “Welcome Home.”

An hour passed as they waited for the bus that carried John Martinez from his novel Navy career to his home.

Cousins, sisters, brothers and friends rushed to the doors of the bus and lined up to hug Martinez, 19.

Martinez joined the Navy 21 weeks ago, leaving Clovis for boot camp at Fort Lee, Va., and settling at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas.

He returned to Clovis Friday to spend two weeks with family and friends.

“I want him to know we are proud of him,” said 16-year-old Amber Bayless, a friend of Martinez’s who orchestrated the homecoming.

“He’s doing awesome. He went from not knowing if he was going to graduate (from high school) to the Navy,” she said.

Martinez was the second person to step from the Greyhound bus, swathed in a Navy coat and a beanie.

“My little boy’s grown up into a man,” said his adopted mother, Christina Snell.

An ear-to-ear grin glued on his face, Martinez said the entourage that enveloped him was unexpected.

“I missed everyone so much,” Martinez said. “Words can’t express it.”

In the Navy, Martinez is an E-2 employed in a construction battalion.

The rank is reserved for enlisted service members in training status or on their initial assignment, according to a military Web site. The pay for E-2s, or seaman apprentices, is the lowest in the military branch, the Web site reads.
No matter — Friday, Martinez was a king.