John Paul Martinez

John Paul Martinez, 62, worked with ventilators and other biomedical equipment at the VA hospital in La Jolla. Martinez was planning to retire later this year before he became sick, his son Josh said. 

Martinez loved barbecuing and going to the beach with his two adult sons, John Jr. and Josh, and his granddaughter, Leila. When he left San Diego for a vacation about two years ago, he returned home without staying a single night because he missed his children too much, his sister said.

Martinez grew up with 13 siblings in Pearland, Texas. He served in the Army and Navy before going to work at the San Diego VA. He was known for his bubbly personality, always joking and laughing with his family and friends.

“He was loved by many,” Joe Martinez said. “I don’t have the words right now. All I have is pain.”

When Joe Martinez was about 16, he bought himself a Christmas gift — a bike he had purchased with money he saved by working in agriculture fields. John, about 13 years old at the time, was so excited to see that Santa Claus had bought him a bike that Joe let his brother keep it.

“I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was mine,” Joe Martinez said. “It made me feel good that he liked the bike. I got to do something in his life for him he didn’t expect. He was the one who was always helping people. He would give away the last $100 in his pocket.”

At least five other veterans have died from COVID-19 while receiving care in the San Diego VA Healthcare System, which provides healthcare to 86,000 veterans in San Diego and Imperial counties.

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