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Hit the lights

18 CES

Airman 1st Class Zackeriah Martinez poses for a photo for the Airman of the Week program June 18, 2018 at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Martinez is a second generation military member and electrician. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Erwin)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Imagine a child grabs a pack of instant ramen to make breakfast, as there is no other food available for the morning meal. The slow walk to the microwave to heat the noodles that the child will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is just another part of the daily routine – like getting out of bed in the morning. The power flickers out, leaving the child dejected and hungry. The bills were paid late again, and now there’s no power.

This was sometimes the reality growing up for Airman 1st Class Zackeriah Martinez, 18th Civil Engineer Squadron electrical systems technician. After struggling to have power growing up, Martinez now gets to help keep Team Kadena’s power on. From housing to the 18th Munitions area and everything in between – it’s the 18th CES, and Martinez, who keep the base lit up.

“That’s the best part of my job,” Martinez said. “When I see the lights come on.”

He grew up in a family that struggled to keep a hot meal on the table – while the family’s bills were paid, they were usually late.

“We barely had two pennies to rub together,” Martinez said.

Because of the financial hardships growing up, Martinez looked for a stable income as an adult. He decided to join the military – like his father had done for a few years – once he finished high school.

His father was in the Navy, but Martinez didn’t realize his father was an electrician until the day he completed technical school.

“My father never told me what he did,” Martinez said. “He told me on my graduation day he was also an electrician in the Navy; it brought things full circle.”

He’s the first in his family to join the Air Force – others who attempted to join were denied upon various attempts.

“Everyone in my family tried to join,” Martinez said. “Everyone had failed. I told myself I was going to join the Air Force, and I will not fail; just like the last line of the Airman’s Creed.”

Whatever life throws at Martinez, he says that no feat is too great.

“I’m a worker,” Martinez said. “You’ll never see me back down from any challenge.”

When giving advice Martinez encourages new Airmen to keep an open mind and keep pushing through the rough days. He uses inspiration from one of his favorite films – “Rocky Balboa” – to fight through each day.

“My favorite quote is from Rocky,” Martinez said. “Life’s not about how hard of a hit you can give. It’s about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward.”