Carlos Martinez was born in San Antonio, Texas. He received a Bachelors and Master’s degree in business. Carlos never considered trying to avoid military service as the U.S. entered the Vietnam War. As a Mexican-American, military service was honored and gave a sense of becoming accepted in the wider community where he lived. Carlos served four years in the Air Force.
When Carlos finished his military service, he began to experience employment discrimination that Latino veterans faced. He and most of his fellow Latino colleagues were only offered temporary positions. They were also denied training that was typically provided. In response to the discriminatory policies, Carlos and others created Veterans for Equal Rights. This was an effort to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They were successful in breaking down employment barriers.
Carlos then joined forces with the American GI Forum, a veterans support group established in 1948. Initially, the Forum was a volunteer organization, but it became obvious that necessary services for veterans needed a more permanent status. In 1972, the National Veterans Outreach Program (NVOP) was established to provide needed services for veterans.
Carlos became the President and CEO of NVOP in 1974. Under Carlos’s leadership, NVOP served thousands of veterans in such areas as housing assistance, jobs for disabled veterans, and employment support.
Carlos became a national figure in his advocacy for veterans. This included testimony before Congress as well as serving on federal agency advisory committees. He also had discussions with five Presidents on veteran’s issues. In 2020, Carlos and his wife both died of COVID-19. Hidden heroes often create organizational structures to deal with issues that they and others confront. For Carlos, he was able to build an organization to serve a need that came from his own personal experience. When hidden heroes see a need, they see that need as an opportunity.
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“Find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it.” – Tommy Barnett (Author/Pastor)