Blue skies. Clouds of incense. Prayers. A mother bent in grief. Rifle fire. The “Ave Maria.”
Yesterday, many gathered to lay Chief Johnny Martinez to rest.
Johnny was what you hope all cops, and really just people, can be- full of light. When I found myself at the office or on site extremely early or late, he would check on me. When my kids were needing an extra watching eye, he filled in. When I slept in the onsite Media Center, hearing him on the radio in the room next door made me know I was safe. And he didn’t just watch out for me, he watched out for all of us- whether management staff, booth worker, patron, or citizen of Todd Mission. He smiled a lot- but I can tell you from watching him in action that when his authority was needed, he could bring it.
When we announced his passing on social media, of course the response was tremendous:
“There are no words to fully express how this news hits us as a community and individually. Johnny, you were a wonder and a truly great man. You leave a hole in our hearts which will hold a thousand tears. Sincere condolences to all friends and family who loved this smiling face.” – Roxanna W.K.
“He protected us all as we enjoyed ourselves. Never forget all that goes on in the background, thank you Sir for all you have done for the festival. God bless you, and may you and your family find peace.” – Tyler L.
“I’m shocked and so sad. My deepest sympathy to Johnny’s family. His absence will be felt by thousands of us who loved his smile and always knew we were safer when he was around.” – Maritabeth C.
And my favorite:
“Wow. Thank you for your service. Even the times I was the one you were taking to the pokey. We all have our jobs. Blessings of healing love to your family. R.I.P. Johnny.” – Donnie E.
At the graveside, with bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace,” a helicopter circling over the cemetery, and the last call being broadcast over radio, I saw many dear faces of the law enforcement officers, volunteer fire fighters, and EMTs who keep us all safe here in this place that is a haven for so many. These men and women use their knowledge, courage, and strength to protect us. Sometimes, they have to be tough. Sometimes, they aren’t popular. But I can assure you with complete confidence that if these men and women were not here, TRF would not be the wonderful place that it is.
Next time you come to enjoy a day at the Festival, maybe take a minute to shake a law enforcement officer’s hand or offer a thank you to an EMT. I know that today I am wishing I had thanked Johnny.
Y’all be safe and kind out there.