I recently got to chat with sixty-eight year old Anibal Martinez, a Vietnam veteran originally from Vieques, Puerto Rico, but decided to make the Bronx his home. He told me about his time in the service, what the Bronx was like when he arrived and he also shared his ideas for a “better Bronx.” Anibal served in the United States army for six years and explained why he loved it. He said that the physical aspect was his favorite part. “I would run all the time, sorta like Forest Gump, but without the beard and long hair." Things changed for Mr. Martinez when he got word that he was being deployed to Vietnam. He described his first day as one that involved no physical activity, just instructions on why they were there. He mentioned, "In the states I never killed a fly, and when I got there, they're teaching us how to kill, it was one of the hardest things to wrap my mind around."
During his time in the military, Anibal was promoted to sergeant E-5 during his time in the military and was honorably discharged following an injury he suffered during war.
Upon returning from the war in 1968, Anibal settled in the Longwood section of the Bronx. During the late sixties and early seventies, the Bronx experienced an immense amount of crime, primarily arson. Anibal painted a perfect picture with his words:
One diversion from all the turmoil that the Bronx faced during those times was music, his choice was Salsa. Even today Anibal enjoys listening to classic Salsa. He wishes that there was a place where he and his pals can congregate to reminisce on the great times that were had to Ismael Riveras, El Nazareno.
Although there were constant problems in the Bronx upon his arrival, Anibal made sure that I knew the sense of community that was around back then. He stated that no matter what the problem was the community would band together to resolve and reconcile the issues at hand.
His idea for a better Bronx is one that includes, peace, love, and more activities for a broader spectrum of age groups. He explained that we need to come together; collectively we can make our beautiful borough a better place for not only ourselves but those who come after. Anibal also stated that more recreational centers are needed so we can keep many of the kids off the streets. With his love for his borough and wanting the best for his neighbors, whether on Longwood Ave or in Riverdale, those qualities make him a real Bronx Veteran.