By Zachary Martinez
It’s a breezy day at Huntington Beach, the time barely reaching six in the morning and the clouds cover the rocks and sand of the idle beach. Times like these are when Vietnam veteran, Zachary L. Martinez, who served with the Blackwater Navy, reminiscences about his war experience. My grandfather suffered from tremendous amounts of PTSD as a serviceman to his country, during a time when the Vietnam War was largely opposed by anti-war activists. A grenade had exploded, shrapnel flying everywhere, some striking his forehead. My grandmother had no information of the dangers of his life, marrying him just as many young women did before their lovers went to war. He was flown back to his military camp, diagnosed, treated, and received the Purple Heart, an award given to those who were either wounded or killed while serving.
He was one of the lucky ones.
Every day since 2010, he praised God and thanked the Lord that his life was spared, so that individuals such as his son, my father, and myself, could have the opportunity to share the story of war and of Patriot Point. Patriot Point started in 2010 as a flag pole, and it was returning from war in the 1970s that my grandfather was met with beatings, spitting, shouting, and name-calling. He was called a “baby-killer.” This flag pole signified that veterans were proud to serve their country, regardless of the circumstance, and would support those who were for and against the war effort. He wanted to bring a community of individuals to share their stories of war and to be a counselor for other veterans who suffered from PTSD as well. It was his continual drive to pursue a loving and compassionate journey that established Patriot Point. He swallowed his fear and doubts, and talked to strangers on the sidewalk of the beach. He brought his Holy Bible and sat with men and women on benches to ask them about their lives. He was humble and had the utmost humility when he spoke, never letting the conversation focus on his endeavors but the adversity of his colleagues. A local golf country club, Seacliff Country Club, noticed my grandfather. One of their representatives spoke to him about the organization they had established to assist veterans, Sea Cliff Tee It Up for the Troops. My grandfather was delighted and welcomed into an organization that funded and dedicated a flag pole in Huntington Beach for him, as he previously had flown the flag on rocks between the sand. The pole sits adjacent to the pier, and every day it swings in the wind. Patriot Point is about providing a sanctuary for veterans and free counseling for those affected by the travesties of war. No war is too old or too new to be welcomed. Patriot Point signifies an aspect of history that many Americans turn away from. It’s what my grandfather called his job: to be a counselor and a pastor for those experiencing PTSD.
Patriot Point can be found between Golden West Street and Pacific Coast Highway. Learn more about our mission @patriotpoint.hb on Instagram or at patriotpoint.weebly.com
Photo Credit: Zachary Martinez