Victor Martinez knows how to stay calm under pressure, motivate troops and lead in combat – skills perfected during a 28-year career in the U.S. Army, from which he retired as a Command Sergeant Major, the highest rank an enlisted soldier can reach.
These days, Victor, an Amway Independent Business Owner (IBO) from Federal Way, Wash., is using his talents as a different kind of leader. He is a coach and mentor for former soldiers in their personal battles to transition life after the military.
It can be a difficult adjustment.
“I honestly don’t know where I would be without him, or if I would even still be alive,” fellow veteran Meljay Clapp said. “This man is a hero among heroes. He has dedicated his life to building veterans up and helping us live a life worth living.”
For his work supporting and encouraging veterans, Victor received the 2017 Amway Hero Award for Leadership, one of four Amway Hero Awards given each year to honor IBOs who build stronger communities and make positive impacts in the lives of others.
A perspective formed by service
Victor’s military career included commanding a Stryker Brigade, specialized soldiers capable of reaching virtually any spot in the world within 96 hours. He served in Afghanistan and Iraq, where, on his second combat tour, his vehicle hit a roadside bomb and caught fire. Victor was injured by shrapnel in his leg and received the Purple Heart.
“I am humbled because I am here by the grace of God,” Victor said. “I had two deployments and I had numerous close calls. I could be a name on a tombstone. Now, I look at everything as a second chance.”
He concluded his military career in charge of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in California, where thousands of soldiers train before deployment. He also oversaw one of the Army’s Warrior Transition Units, which provide intense support to soldiers for emotional and physical injuries.
In that role, Victor worked closely with doctors, counselors and therapists. The experience inspired his current mission.
Returning to civilian life
“Whenever someone leaves the military, it’s something of a leap of faith,” said Victor. “It’s scary to take off the uniform, get a job and transition to being a civilian again.”
Additional pressure from coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other emotional issues can be crippling.
Veteran Chris Toney was feeling that pressure. His PTSD worsens in the spring, around the anniversary of losing a squad leader and several friends in an attack in Iraq. He was struggling in college and at his job when he was introduced to Victor, whom he describes as “an angel that came down to earth to show me that there is a reason to live again.”
“In the Army they teach you to look out for your ‘battle buddy,’” Chris said. “In a sense, Victor thinks of us as his battle buddies who are in our own personal wars for stability in our new lives.”
Bringing out the best in people
Sam Estrada served in the Army with Victor and watched him rise through the ranks. He said his friend was a great military leader who now shows a different side of his leadership skills.
“Because of his influence, he leads people to the things they need to do to be successful,” Sam said. “And he does it with compassion and love.”
Victor truly enjoys working with veterans, said his wife, Myrna, who has noticed the instant connections he makes with them. “He knows where they’ve been, how they feel, how they think,” she said. “l see how he believes in them, and you can see how they change their attitudes.”
Myrna said Victor’s sense of mission in the Army has carried it over into civilian life. “He hasn’t changed, but now he has a different purpose. Now his mission is to inspire people and help them find their purpose, too.”
Reflecting on his own career, and receiving the Hero recognition, Victor said, “This is humbling. After being a leader in the Army, my only hope and prayer is that I can be a good leader and serve people unconditionally and bring out the best in them.”
Want to read more about Amway Heroes? Check out our previous stories here.