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A retired Air Force veteran and 2000 graduate of Lely High School, who was traumatically injured by a drunken driver in South Carolina in 2012, died with his family by his side.

Alan George Martinez, 36, passed away Dec. 23.

His family in Naples and friends held a private gathering Thursday at the home of his mother, Jeanette Lombardi, a local attorney. A larger celebration of his life will be held in May in Colorado.

The family thanks the hundreds of friends who have supported them during the last five years and requests donations in lieu of flowers be made to a local no-kill shelter, to a veterans’ assistance organization, to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or any organization working to end drunk driving.

The family was unavailable for comment.

“His energizing spirit radiated and blessed those who knew him,” according to Martinez’s obituary in the Naples Daily News. “He was eager to offer a helping hand, not just to his friends and family but often to complete strangers.”

After the 9/11 terrorist attack, Martinez decided to serve his country and received a congressional appointment to the U.S.Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He graduatedin 2006, where he was an Honor Officer and discovered a love for skydiving. He served three years as an intercontinental ballistic missile operator and retired as a first lieutenant with an honorable discharge.

He pursued his love of skydiving and became a full-time skydiving coach and instructor. In 2011, he enrolled in law school at the University of South Carolina in Columbia with his brother, Michael Martinez. The two lived together during law school.

Alan Martinez’s promising future was shattered, at the age of 31, on the morning of Sept. 8, 2012. He was on his way from Columbia to his job at Skydive Carolina in nearby Chester. He sent a text to colleagues at Skydive that he was running a few minutes late. When he didn’t arrive, colleagues put out calls.

Martinez was driving up Interstate 77 heading to work when a driver going the wrong way on the interstate smashed into his car.

In his second year of law school, Martinez suffered massive body and brain injuries and was in a coma for three months, according to an Oct. 17, 2013, article in The State, a Columbia newspaper.

The driver, Santos Gomez, 48, was sentenced to the maximum 15-year sentence for felony DUI causing great bodily harm. An undocumented immigrant from Mexico, Gomez was high on a mix of beer and methamphetamine when he drove 70 mph the wrong way on the interstate, a prosecutor said during a court hearing Oct. 17, 2013. Gomez pleaded guilty.

“I’ve never witnessed a more tragic situation than this,” State Circuit Judge Michael Nettles said at the sentencing hearing, where more than 20 friends and family members of Martinez address the judge.

They spoke about how Martinez could have become a fantastic lawyer, perhaps becoming a judge one day, and how he did community work for neglected children and for animal rights.

Martinez required 24-hour nursing care and spent time at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, which specializes in spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation.

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