Friday, March 23, 2007


Francisco T. Martinez photo

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FORT WORTH -- Father and son, Paco and Paquito, watched the television when a Girls Gone Wild commercial came on.

"I can't stand that ... ," Paco said to his son. "Look at these college guys, having the time of their life with daddy's money."

Paquito probably knew a lecture was coming on. He was 17, just a few weeks beyond throwing his mortarboard into the air at the Eastern Hills High School graduation, wondering what would happen next.

Paco went on, because this is sometimes what fathers do -- talk to the televisions when they're really talking to their sons.

"I went to college as a more mature man," he continued. "I had already learned about discipline and responsibility. Would I have learned it eventually anyway? Probably. But where I got mine was in the military."

Paquito never said a word, and the subject changed as soon as the commercial did.
Francisco T. Martinez -- Paco to those who know him -- has relived that conversation countless times the past two years. It is on a constant loop in his brain, over and over -- the words, the tone, the certainty in his fatherly message.

This is the part of grief that the psychiatrists never talk about. They say there is disbelief, yearning, anger, depression and acceptance. Never guilt, though.

But Paquito is buried in the national cemetery in Dallas, his last living act in the uniform of the U.S. Army, trying to bring peace to a divided neighborhood in Ramadi, Iraq.

Martinez can't help but think about that night's conversation, as it plays and replays in his mind.
"Maria tells me I'm a good father, and Paquito made his own choices," Martinez said, referring to his wife. "But do I ever feel like I had a lot to do with that? Yeah, I do. I planted the seed."

Twenty-year-old Spc. Francisco G. Martinez -- Paquito -- died of a single gunshot wound, delivered by a sniper, on March 20, 2005, the precise moment in which his father was forced onto a journey no man would ever willingly choose. read more