Obviously proud of his family, heritage and service to his country and his fellow man, Erminio “Ermie” Martinez radiates satisfaction and gratitude for the various opportunities afforded him during his 80 years of life.
Born in Holman May 18, 1929, Ermie recalls his early years of schooling at Agua Negra Presbyterian School. Noting that his parents, aunts and uncles had attended this school, he says, “ It was not only the imposed discipline of the atmosphere” that impressed him, “but that they got the students interested.”
Nonetheless, the religious influence of the school was lasting, as many of Ermie’s relatives are Protestant, influenced by the philosophical foundations of that school. Himself, a Catholic, Ermie calls nearby Chacon “a bastion of Protestantism.”
Ermie’s family moved to Las Vegas when he was 7, and he continued his elementary education at South Public School. Later, he went to the Highlands Training School, which became variously known as Normal High School, University High School and Highlands High School.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of these institutions, in 1983, Ermie published “The Abnormal Normal High School: Four Schools in One Training School, Normal High, University High and Highlands High.” A reunion of the Training School in 1982 inspired this 135-page publication. In the preface, Ermie writes, “Some accounts are trivial to those not connected with the normal school…. however, it will bring back memories of another time … when these … events were a matter of great concern … perhaps a worthy memory to be preserved, a part of our golden years.”
The book teems with details and anecdotes, which kept me — a mid-1960s transplant, turning the pages, as many of the names and incidents mentioned by Martinez resound with a distinct familiarity.
The author cites sources such as the Southwest Wind yearbook and El Crepusculo newspaper in the first decade of the 1900s, the publications for New Mexico Normal University. He also alludes to various Las Vegas Daily Optic articles, which have documented the evolution of the institutions and the buildings on campus that were raised or leveled during the 20th century.
Specifically referring to the old Training School building (later called Normal High School), which later morphed into the HU Business Administration Building, Martinez’s narrative recalls the modifications of the structure on the corner of Eighth Street and University Avenue (now the Felix Martinez Building). The content of Ermie’s book is evocative not only to members of the high school he attended, but to many others of the potential readership who have had prior connections to NMHU.
But back to Erminio’s story. He graduated high school in 1946, but he has not forgotten the” green and gold” years. Here, Ermie fondly displays his high school basketball jersey bearing green and gold school colors. The dedication in his book is “to the many students who shared with me, regardless of the time, the excitement of a high school, now gone, and the respect, understanding and affection of teachers long remembered.” He adds a dedication to his wife, Corrine, and family “who have patiently put up with my memories of three years at an unusual school.”
That was just the beginning of an odyssey of adventures for this young man. In 1947, Ermie attended Highlands University for one year, aspiring to major in speech, but more deeply inspired by many World War II veterans, in 1948, he joined the U.S. Air Force. He remembers his childhood, and his mother’s love of music, especially martial music, and her awakening him each morning with the strains of “Ya gotta get up, Ya gotta get up in the morning.” He says, somewhat transcendentally, “It seems that God was with me and helped me get everything I wanted in the service.”
Ermie’s military career began at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, followed by a stint at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyo. As opportunities presented themselves, Ernie reached for the brass rings, eventually being approved as a candidate for the USAF School for Latin America in the Panama Canal Zone, where he cross-trained in the fields of personnel and intelligence.
During the subsequent three-year training period, “Marty” (so called because of his last name, Martinez) worked as a translator from English to Spanish. During this training, he met, “wonderful people — from all over Latin America — airmen studying different subjects in aviation.”
The training was to pay off for Ermie. His subsequent stationing at Biggs AFB in El Paso with Air Force Security Code: Languages led to a Strategic Air Command Language Technician assignment, which involved training in multiple activities — escape, evasion, resistance to interrogation, aircraft recognition, etc. — in general, survival tactics. After a year in El Paso, Ermie left the military, returning to Las Vegas.
Back home, Ermie perceived that even though there had been a plethora of regulations in military service, there seemed to be even more in civilian life. This prompted him to re-enlist — another interesting chapter in his life. His goal was to attend Russian Language School, but the timing was a bit off, and in 1956, Ermie was assigned USAF Security Service headquarters in San Antonio, assigned to “casual status,” until the next 12-week Russian class began in Syracuse, N.Y.
During the hiatus, Ermie experienced another change in plans, and off he went to Hof (am Salle), Germany, where he became involved in radio command analysis, gathering intelligence as to what civil aircraft were doing so that in the event of war, the military would be able to know their capabilities.
When this assignment ended, Ermie returned to the U.S., but there was no need for his specialty, so he trained in computer programming at the Air Force Academy at Kirtland AFB. Subsequently, Ermie went back to the Panama Canal Zone, retiring and being discharged in 1971. Regarding his various assignments, Ermie says, “God protected my family and me from 1951 to 1971: they were able to accompany me wherever I went.”
Obviously no slacker, Ermie immediately sized up the situation after his return to Las Vegas. Finding that he lacked only one quarter of coursework to earn a bachelor of arts in languages, he got the job done. Then he earned a master of arts in modern foreign languages at Highlands and worked from roughly 1975 to 1986 within the university as an instructor of Spanish, bilingual mass media and journalism.
So, Erminio Martinez, retired military, polyglot, writer, educator, husband, father, has had a full life, unquestionably beyond compare to the average person. Married to Corrine Roybal in 1952, the couple has been united for 57 years. Their seven children were born variously in Panama, Germany and Texas, quite a geographical stretch. His command of the Spanish language is unquestionable.
“For a long time I fell very much in love with the Spanish language and the music; … when I was in basic training, I was writing letters in Spanish. My uncle was a Spanish language poet and publisher.”
Ermie recalls that his father used to make him read so much in Spanish. Ermie’s subsequent experience in the Panama Canal Zone built on his Spanish language background.
But there is more, much more to this man. He appears to hold strong convictions on patriotism, discipline, personal faith, development of one’s potential. He alludes to the writings of Ayn Rand: “Every individual has great potential and should be allowed to develop it on his own terms, if possible.”
He notes that there is “no one way” to develop one’s potential. Acknowledging that he has seen many cases of young individuals with talent who were never encouraged and mentored, he shakes his head.
“They could have been great,” but, he adds, “Some of us are just fortunate — God has blessed me.”
In an aside, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, Ermie discloses some disappointment: “Nunca llegó la oferta de mis ensueños juveniles de jugar el papel cinematográfico de Abran Lincoln, partiendo leña.” (Apparently Ermie wanted to star as Abe Lincoln chopping wood). He adds, “Nunca fui elijido a un puesto politico. Tal vez eso fue un favor de mi tatita Dios.” (Ermie, a politician?) Who knows? Given Ermie’s successes in all his other endeavors, perhaps he could have emerged as a modern-day Honest Abe or Ronald Reagan.