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Ceremony held to rename post office for Illinois Marine killed in Afghanistan

A group gathers around the plaque that was unveiled Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020 at a ceremony in which the post office in downtown Elgin, Ill. was renamed for Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez, an Elgin native killed in Afghanistan in 2012.

GLORIA CASAS, THE COURIER-NEWS/TNS

By GLORIA CASAS | The Courier-News | Published: October 14, 2020

ELGIN, Ill. (Tribune News Service) — Marine Cpl. Alex Martinez’s name was immortalized Tuesday when the Elgin Post Office was renamed in his honor.

“Alex’s name and sacrifice will never be forgotten,” his widow, Julianna, told the crowd gathered for a dedication ceremony outside the 66 Grove Court building. “I would like to thank everyone who came out here today once again honoring Alex in the city.”

Martinez, 21, and three other Marines were killed April 5, 2012, in Afghanistan during a explosives cleaning mission in the Helmand Province.

He was the first Elgin resident to lose his life in military action since the U.S. terrorist attacks in 2001. He was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for valor and a Purple Heart and the city recognized him with an honorary street designation near his Elgin home.

U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Schaumberg, sponsored the legislation required to change the post office name to the Cpl. Alex Martinez Memorial Post Office Building.

“Cpl. Martinez was a brilliant star in the fabric of our lives and his light will continue to shine brightly in our hearts and our minds for years to come,” said Krishnamoorthi, one of several speakers Tuesday at the dedication ceremony.

Krishnamoorthi thanked Martinez’s widow; his mother, Socorro; and his father, Enrique for sharing “his incredible life and legacy with us,” he said.

Martinez was born and raised in Elgin. He graduated from Larkin High School and he was inspired to follow in his father’s military footsteps, Krishnamoorthi said. Enrique Martinez was in the Navy Reserve and served in Iraq in 2006.

Alex Martinez was so eager to enlist that he took summer courses so he could graduate early and join the Marines at age 18. Martinez married his high school sweetheart, Julianna, before deploying to Afghanistan.

He had wanted to join the military since he was a child, his sister, Eileen Bethke, said.

“Alex loved being a Marine. Alex was born to be Marine," Bethke said. “Throughout his childhood, he would surround himself playing with things that were Marine-like. He would play with toy soldiers, toy guns, and he would go paintball shooting with my dad.”

“Despite his young age, Cpl. Martinez had the quiet reserve of someone who already knew who he was and what he stood for,” Krishnamoorthi said. “He balanced that seriousness of purpose with a wonderful sense of humor and a penchant for movie character impressions.”

Renaming the post office after Alex will help the “community recognize who he is and remember what he did and the sacrifices he made for this country,” Bethke said. “Alex loved this country.”

Mayor Dave Kaptain called it “a happy day for the city of Elgin."

"It’s not a sad day,” Kaptain said. “We’re honoring one of our own.”

The plaque bearing Martinez’s name should serve as a reminder that all leaders have the “obligation to be honest and do the best we can for our community, our family and our friends,” he said. “That’s what Cpl. Martinez did.”

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