By Tony Cantú
Sometimes, a key component of a wounded veteran's recovery comes down to the human touch. With that local principle in mind, a local businesswoman is doing her part to bring some relief to fallen heroes.
Krystle Martinez, the owner of the Mediterranean Day Spa at 319 E. Nakoma, is offering complimentary services to wounded soldiers – and their immediate families – who are residents at the Fisher House locations at Fort Sam Houston at the Brooke Army Medical Center and at Lackland Air Force Base. The effort is being conducted as part of Operation Oasis, a volunteer-led non-profit organization providing therapeutic massage and day spa services for wounded military personnel and their families.
“My brother was in Vietnam and died as the result of Agent Orange several years ago,” Martinez said, recalling the origins of the philanthropic effort. “I've always had in my heart to give back to the community, particularly military families.”
Her desire to give back began in earnest in 2005, when she donated about $5,000 worth of services to soldiers' families, she said. Witnessing the healing effects of her services firsthand inspired her to continue the mission.
“They were so pleased,” she said of recipients of her services. “So I just started going to the Fisher House and volunteering my time, and now I have 10 volunteers and a long list of people that would love to help.”
The day spa's unique healing treatments – such as its signature body wraps and specialized massage treatments – provide physical relief to soldiers recovering from burns, amputations, bullet wounds and other injuries. And something as simple as the complimentary hair styling offers stress de-compression to harried wives and mothers of veterans making trips from across the country to visit their loved ones in recovery.
Maricela Marquez, a 35-year veteran beautician, can attest to the emotional effects of the latter. The day spa's hair stylist, she conveyed the palpable change a mere perm – typically valued at up to $55 – has on the stressed moms and wives of military personnel.
“The women are so stressed,” Marquez said. “They've been uprooted where from where they were, and have no friends or family here. They are totally transformed, have more confidence in themselves and their spirits are lifted. It's a little time for themselves, a little outlet,” she added, noting the makeovers help moms and wives put on a brave front as they prepare to see their wounded warriors for the first time since being injured.
James Riley, a board advisor for Operation Oasis Healing through Love, also sees the benefits of such makeovers. “I think it's an undeniable truth that the wives and the mothers the wounded soldiers undergo a severe level of stress when they walk into BAMC to see their loved ones or when they're notified their loved one has been wounded.
“They'll get on a plane in the middle of the night, they don't look well themselves, and they're tired. What Krystle does is when she finds out they are coming, she gets them to the spa, tries to calm them down and allows them to cry.”
For the soldiers themselves, the array of services offer measurable healing attributes. Martinez cited one example that has stayed with her.
“There's a soldier we've been doing body wraps for the past 18 months who didn't even realize how many bullet holes there were in his body,” she said. “The doctors said because of these body wraps, he has healed a lot faster and has been able to get through his operations more quickly.”
The procedure – which involves a heated seaweed blanket wrap seeped in almond oil – actually promotes healing by detoxifying the body, essentially sweating out remnant toxins from the many medicines soldiers are administered. For good measure, the procedure helps relieve aching joint and muscles.
Martinez makes the trek to the Fisher House location three times a week, and she and her volunteer are able to help about five soldiers each visit. Still, she said she'd like to do more and said she wishes the program could be extended to all seven Fisher House sites. Transportation issues would be solved if she could only secure a van to transport vets to and from en masse, she notes.
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski