PETERSBURG, Va. -- Second Lieutenant Jose Martinez migrated to the United States from Mexico on a visa at just 16 years old.
"My visa expired, so I became a DREAMer," Martinez remembered. "I didn’t have papers for about a year."
He was afraid he'd be deported despite his dream of learning English and working toward a future in the states. It is a fear many in our country share.
"It was in the back of my head," he said. "I remembered you have to be a good citizen and not do dumb things or you’ll be deported."
Martinez received a green card, which allowed him to join the National Guard and become a U.S. citizen. The 26-year-old is stationed at Fort Lee and now serves the country that gave him a chance to survive.
"Every day I wake up and say I have to do something better. We have to create and help others," Martinez said.
Martinez met his wife in America and have a five month old son, Eduardo, together who live in Phoenix, Arizona.
"They are why I wake up everyday and do what I do," he said.
Martinez and more than a dozen Fort Lee soldiers partnered with the Red Cross in Petersburg to assemble start-up kits for homeless veteran's new homes, Saturday. The group also put together gift bags to deliver to local veteran's hospitals during National Salute to Veterans Week.
"Now, I belong to this country and I'm ready to fight and serve this country," Martinez said. "No matter what other people say, at the end of the day I'm an American."
In the Virginia Capital chapter (greater-Richmond area) the Red Cross provides almost 15,000 casework and direct item services each year to active duty military members, veterans and their families.
The Red Cross is currently collecting emergency clothing bags and apartment start-up kit items for service members and veterans in need.
They are always accepting bottled water and snacked (store bought, individually wrapped) to support military veterans projects.
If you'd like to donate, click here to find the location of your local Red Cross office.