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Roadside bomb kills another Utahn in Iraq
Virgil Chance Martinez returned from Iraq to Germany last month to spend a few weeks of leave with his wife and children.
He had not seen them in five months. And he would not see them again.
Martinez, who was born and raised in West Jordan, was killed Sunday in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq.
The 33-year-old soldier was on his second tour of duty in the war-torn nation. His sister, Kim Austin-Oliver, said he was doing what he loved.
"We knew at a very young age that he was going to be a police officer or a soldier," Austin-Oliver said. "It was who he has always been. And so I guess he died doing what he always wanted to do."
Martinez attended West Jordan High School, where he was on the ski team and played football. He joined the Army shortly after graduating in 1992.
Martinez's father and namesake, Virgil Martinez, said his son believed in what he was doing.
"The last time we spoke to him, he told us 'we need to be here,' " the elder Martinez remembered. "We have stood by him in whatever decision he has ever made and we believe he died doing what was right. He will never be forgotten and will always be missed."
Family members said the younger Martinez - everyone just called him "Chance" - had been stationed in Germany for the past eight years, where he lived with
his wife and four children. A fifth child lives in Oklahoma with Martinez's ex-wife.
His friend, Dan Chavez, recalled the period following the end of Martinez' first marriage when the two men were roommates.
"We were both going through a divorce and we needed each other at that time, and I'll tell you what - we sure as heck weren't going to let a whole lot of life go by us," Chavez said. "But he also knew what was important. For him it was 'work, party, work, party - wait, I've got my daughter today' and when that happened, everything else stopped. He was definitely about being a dad and that was a priority to him."
Chavez said Martinez was always happy and always there for his friends.
"Wherever Chance was, people wanted him there," Chavez said. "He was welcome anywhere."
Martinez is the 38th Utahn to be killed in a combat zone since 2001, according to a Salt Lake Tribune count which includes residents and former residents of the state.