Fallen Spring Valley Soldier Returns Home

Sgt. Rafael Martinez, 36, Killed By Bomb In Afghanistan

While it was not the homecoming his family was hoping for, the body of a local soldier killed in Afghanistan returned home on Saturday.

Sgt. Rafael Martinez, 36, of Spring Valley, and two other soldiers were killed in an insurgent bomb attack on Oct. 14, just weeks before Martinez was scheduled to come home in November.

Rafael Martinez was serving in Afghanistan during his third tour to the Middle East after having served in Iraq during two previous tours.

"I always thought he was indestructible," said Yvonne Martinez, his sister. "[The] last time I saw him was the Fourth of July. We had a conversation and he said he would be right back. "

Rafael Martinez was awarded a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered from a roadside bomb during his 2007 tour in Iraq.

"He was so proud. You should see his truck. It was all 'Army'ed out," said Yvonne Martinez, who said Rafael Martinez loved his country deeply. "If he was going to go, this is the way he would want to go."

Dozens of Patriot Guard riders also accompanied Rafael's body, as they do for the return of every fallen soldier whose family allows it.

Yvonne Martinez said she has been trying to prepare for this day for more than a week, but nothing could prepare her as she gazed upon the coffin.

"I just hope people don't forget what these soldiers do for us and for liberty and freedom of speech. This is why you have it. Just don't forget," she said.

Rafael Martinez leaves behind two children and a wife.