NEW ORLEANS – When you come down to the National World War II Museum, the first smiling face you see belongs to Ben Martinez.
Ben Martinez tells WGNO News with a Twist features guy Wild Bill Wood, “I try to smile, smiling is part of my nature and I am a happy person.”
Ben sat down for a chat with Wild Bill when Ben was just a young man.
He was about to turn ninety-nine.
Now is 100 years old!
Ben is one of the 400 volunteers at the National World War II Museum.
Wild Bill Wood says to Ben Martinez, “you inspire every person who walks through the door of this museum.”
Ben Martinez says, “I hope I do some good.”
This guy does a lot of good.
As America still basks in the spirit of the Fourth of July, the man Wild Bill wants you to meet has this spirit every day.
What does Ben Martinez do?
He’s shakes hands.
He answers questions about his service in the US Army during World War II. He served from 1942 – 1946.
Ben was part of the 88th Infantry, one of the 15,000 men in Italy.
And then Ben shakes more hands.
Wild Bill says, “every hand shake winds up with the one question, the question I’d like to ask if you don’t mind, how old are you about to be?”
Ben Martinez says, “I’m about to be 99.”
“I’ve been very lucky from the day I was born until now, ” Ben says.
Wild Bill wonders why Ben Martinez comes here every week, twice a week to volunteer his time.
He’s here Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 pm to 4 pm.
Wild Bill says, “wouldn’t you rather just stay home and chill out?”
Ben says, “coming down to the museum is my life these days and if I stayed home, I’d go crazy.”
Fighting during WW II Ben says was very rough. He was an assistant to the battalion surgeon. He helped stabilize men and get them ready for the next evacuation.
Now, here at the museum in New Orleans, people want to meet and greet him because Ben was really there.
Ben says he was there along with 16 million others.
“I was not alone,” says Ben Martinez.
What was his favorite part of the war?
Ben Martinez does not have to think to give his answer, “the end, the end of the war.”